Central and Peripheral Vision While Driving: A Closer Look

Having good vision is absolutely necessary in order to drive a car. I know what you’re thinking — le duh — but that’s why you’re required to take an eye exam when you go get a learner permit or driver license. If you can’t see road signs, signals and other cars, then you shouldn’t be driving. Let’s take a look-see at some of the important ways that your vision can assist you while driving.

Central Vision

Central vision is what you see out your front windshield when looking straight ahead. It’s where you’ll see lovely sights like highway litter, gas station signs and billboards like this:

Central vision helps you see things like billboards while driving.

Central vision is where the majority of visual information you receive while driving comes from. For example, central vision lets you know when cars in front of you have braked, when there’s a stoplight, when the speed limit decreases or when you should exit the interstate. All very important things.

Keep those peepers alert while driving!
Keep those peepers alert while driving!

Peripheral Vision

Peripheral vision is a little less obvious, but it’s super important for driving. Basically, peripheral vision is what you see out of the corner of your eye when looking straight ahead. Peripheral vision lets you see when other cars are passing you, while still allowing you to focus on what’s in front of you. Do you see what I mean? (Note: Peripheral vision is not a substitute for checking your blind spot!)

Peripheral vision is like our built-in side-eye.
Peripheral vision is like our built-in side-eye.

Peripheral vision complements central vision to help you make informed driving decisions — like when it’s safe to move over a lane, when there’s a pedestrian trying to cross or when you need to go to the car wash because a bird just pooped on your window (ugh, the worst). Peripheral visions lets you see potential hazards before they enter your central vision. Together, the two types of vision help make you a smarter driver. Pretty cool, right?

And that’s what central and peripheral vision looks like!

"Looks like" ... get it?
“Looks like” … get it?
Make sure to check out the rest of our safe driving videos for more tips to keep you in control on the road!