Four Types of Blindness That Affect Commercial or Owner Operator Truckers

Good vision is essential for safely driving commercial or owner operator trucks. However, even with a healthy pair of eyes with 20/20 vision, you can’t always count on them to see everything on the road. That’s because the external world can interfere with your vision, or your brain may fail to properly process the signals sent by the eyes. In short, you can’t see something unless sufficient light from the object reaches your eyes, your eyes correctly convert the light into nerve signals, and your brain processes, or “makes sense” of the signals. If any one of these critical steps don’t occur, you become blind to whatever you’re looking at.

Assuming your eyes work fine, here are four ways you can fail to see what’s out there on the road:

Selective Attention

The brain has a limited capacity to process the enormous amount of visual information coming in from the outside of your windshield. In order to cope with this information overload, it filters out irrelevant visual inputs. What’s left over is what you see. This selective attention leaves you blind to the filtered signals. For example, if your entire focus at an intersection is finding traffic gaps to exploit, you can become blind to pedestrians on crosswalks. Another way of putting this is that you only see what you’re looking for.

Inattention Blindness

This occurs to people who mentally multitask. The brain’s limited capacity means that it’s poor at doing multiple things requiring brain power. An example of this is holding a cell phone conversation while driving. If the conversation requires thinking or imagining things, objects on the road become invisible because the brain lacks the capacity to carry on the conversation and also see all the traffic, signs, potholes, people, and other activity on the road. Up to fifty percent of what’s on the road can vanish even when your eyes are looking at the objects. This occurs even when your cell phone is hands free.

Micro Sleep

When forcing yourself to drive without adequate sleep (by will power or with stimulants like caffeine), parts of your brain briefly shut down and reawaken in an effort to get some rest. In essence, parts of your brain flicker on and off in a process called micro sleep. When this happens, you enter into a trance-like state where you automatically do very basic driving tasks, while being consciously unaware of what’s going on. You become blind on a conscious level to what’s happening on the road. Drivers who somehow get through micro sleep without an accident, have no recollection of what happened.

Motion Induced Blindness

When you fixate your eyes straight ahead without scanning the rest of the road with your eyes, moving things at the edge of your vision disappear. This is called motion induced blindness. You can see this effect by fixating your eyes at the blinking green dot here. This will cause the yellow dots to vanish.

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David Ott

David Ott