VR sight simulator raises awareness of dangers of driving with poor vision

A unique virtual reality (VR) experience has been created by Specsavers, working with the International Glaucoma Association (IGA), to replicate what driving looks like through the eyes of someone with untreated glaucoma.

More than 150 participants in four locations across the UK were asked to use the VR sight simulator to navigate their way as if driving along a road, while avoiding potential hazards.

Results from the driving simulation showed that driving with glaucoma increases the risk of accidents by 11%. On average, people reacted to hazards 0.3 seconds slower with slight visual impairment than with clear vision.

Almost a quarter (23%) of the VR users had not had a sight test within the past two years. 

Specsavers clinical spokesperson Dr Nigel Best says: ‘Our driving simulation study shows that more needs to be done to educate people on how a change in vision can impact road safety. It’s paramount – and everyone’s responsibility – to know that your vision is as good as it can be every time you get behind the wheel.

‘While many people understand the perils of driving while under the influence of alcohol or in adverse weather, often they overlook the state of their vision or their eye health. That is why we used the VR experience to highlight the dangers of getting behind the wheel with impaired vision.’

Karen Osborn, CEO at the IGA says: ‘The VR simulation shows what it is like to look through the eyes of someone with quite a severe level of glaucoma – one of the largest causes of preventable sight loss in the world. Referred to as the “silent thief of sight”, the condition often develops slowly over several years and as it affects the peripheral vision first, many do not even realise they have it. 

‘However, as you can see, the effects can be devastating, not only to your own health but if you were to get behind the wheel without adequate vision, then for others too. That is why eye tests are very important as they can often detect the signs before it is too late.’

Josh Harris, director of campaigns at Brake, adds: ‘The ongoing stagnation in UK road safety is deeply concerning, with little to no improvement in the number of people killed and seriously injured on roads in recent years. With these statistics, we can hopefully raise awareness to improve eye health and make safer streets.’

Pictured above: Specsavers driving simulator in use at a City of London road safety event. 

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