Keep Your Eyes and Mind Open as You Learn to Drive

Keep Your Eyes and Mind Open as You Learn to Drive

When you drive, you’ll be using your whole body. Hands, legs, feet, arms, head, eyes, and ears all play a role to keep you and others safe.

Your mind is also part of safe driving, and, in fact, it may be the most important part of good driving. Your mind helps make sense of what’s going on.  Receiving excellent driver training in Chesapeake, Virginia help you develop the skills you need

Bring your mind also to your driver education. You need to see everything, but you need to make sure you perceive things accurately.  Perception requires training, because behind the wheel is not the place to see only what you expect to see.

Accurate and Active Perception matters in driving

Let’s begin with a little test. Don’t worry — there’s no penalty for failure.

I bet you didn’t see it the first time — most people don’t.

Human psychology explains why this happens. We are programmed to see what we want or expect to see. Expectations, as you can see, lead us to miss significant parts of a situation — and that can lead to trouble.

In the Awareness Test (which has a driver’s ed piece — watch for cyclists!) you were told to look for the number of passes the team in white made. You then focused on what you were told to look for — and that’s OK.

Being good viewers, you counted. Because you were focused on the team in white, you didn’t see the bear, and you couldn’t count the number of passes the team in black made.

That’s the kind of perception you need to avoid in driving — you need to perceive and be aware of everything that’s going on.Behind the wheel, you can’t focus on just one thing. You have to actively observe and perceive the entire situation.

Active perception and observation are central to driving

Most accidents are caused because one or more drivers didn’t see something in time to avoid it — usually another vehicle or person changing something (lanes, speeds, directions). Even with eyes on the road, you may be focused on one thing, which prevents you from perceiving the rest.

In the awareness test, the active portion — when both teams were passing the balls, and the bear moonwalked across the screen — lasted for 14 seconds. In a car, a lot can happen in 14 seconds.

A car traveling 55 mph travels 80 feet per second; during the time of the test, your car could go almost 1,120 feet — almost 4 football fields long

It takes about ¾ of a second to perceive and process a hazard — that’s about 60 feet right there. Your brain then has to tell your foot to hit the brakes. That message takes another ¾ of a second. Another 60 feet.

And at that speed it will take around 270 feet to come to a stop — another football field, almost.

And that’s if you’re paying attention to the event requiring the brakes.

Think of those distances and texting/driving. When you text, you’re as focused on the screen as you were on the passes made by the team in white.  Imagine all the other issues with driving and misperceiving something.

Active observation is a driving skill

Staring is never a good way to keep your eyes open while driving. You will miss the moon walking bears in the side streets. The best way to observe actively and perceive accurately is to do the following:

  • Look high over steering wheel, and your eyes should look into your turns.
  • Move your eyes actively while driving — keep them fixed at a point for no more than 2 seconds.
  • Moving eyes allows you to check the far, middle, and near distances frequently — you’ll be able to track that child playing in the yard 3 blocks away.
  • Check your mirrors every 10 seconds or so.  There should be a very slight overlap in the view from one mirror to the next (that helps look for cyclists, too!).
  • Keep an eye out for space between you and other vehicles, as well as for escape routes
  • If you can see other driver’s eyes in their mirror, they can probably see you.

Humans react to larger moving objects faster than they do to smaller ones. We will see the car before the cyclist or pedestrian. Look carefully and thoughtfully.

Be aware of traffic in crossroads. Don’t count on their stopping even if there’s a stop sign or red light in their direction — on the other hand, don’t stop, either. Just be aware that some people are clueless that way.

How can I practice my perception as a new driver?

Your perception skills can be developed anytime. Practice them even before you get your license, with your parents in the car.

Take a commentary drive.

In a commentary drive, you narrate what’s going on and what you’re doing as you travel. Narrate trips with your parents even before you get your permit. They should confirm what you’ve perceived correctly, and indicate other items which you should have noticed, as well as why it matters.

Think about recording your narration and going over it at home. If you can film the trip to see and hear, that’s even better.

A good commentary drive should have you talking about the following items

  • General — describe when to use the mirror and what you see 1-2-3 blocks ahead, as well as what other drivers could do based on their driving. Someone going slowly may be looking for an address — that should be in your commentary.
  • Approaching vehicles — describe the actions they might take, and what you would have to do.
  • Road surface changes — discuss how the changes affect driving — whether it’s rain, or gravel, or potholes, as well as driving adjustments you have to make.
  • Other road users — Mention pedestrians and cyclists, and how you will act to deal with them.
  • Speed changes — note changes in speed and why the speed changed.
  • Road signs and markings — discuss what these signs and markings mean.

Commentary drives can help you develop your perception. It gives your parents a really strong role in your driver education.

Great perception, safe driving

Once you practice your perception skills, you will be even more ready to drive than before. Perception is a skill which can be developed even before you take driving lessons around Chesapeake.

As you work through your driver training — both in classes and with your parents — you can do everyone a favor and perceive things accurately. By being aware of how your brain perceives what comes through your eyes, you will be a great driver.