Driving and vision loss

Project Code: 10433470

Faculty: Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Department: Optometry & Vision Science

Main Supervisor: Dr Phil Turnbull

Principal investigator: Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer

Application open date: 31 Jul 2018

Application deadline: 31 Dec 2019

Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents, International


Current vision standards for driving include a static visual acuity (letter chart) component, and a peripheral vision component, which assess only a portion of visual function. Contrast sensitivity is reduced in many eyes diseases, including macular degeneration and glaucoma. Individuals with glaucoma can experience gradual loss of their peripheral vision and impaired contrast sensitivity, but they normally have well-preserved central visual acuity, while people with macular degeneration preferentially lose their central vision. People who have lost part of their vision may develop adaptive techniques (including compensatory eye movements) to compensate for their visual deficiencies, which may mean they can drive safely, despite not meeting the driving vision standards.

The overall aim of this project is to examine how driving performance is affected by different contrast conditions in individuals with loss of peripheral vision due to glaucoma and macular degeneration, compared with healthy participants with no eye disease. Eye movements will be recorded to enable us to better understand driving behaviour. The results of this study will help us to determine the essential visual requirements for safe driving.

What we are looking for in a successful applicant

What we are looking for in a successful applicant:
·       Willingness and ability to work with an older, visually impaired population (essential)
·       Ability to work in a multi-disciplinary team (essential)
·       Clinical experience, especially in optometry or ophthalmology (desirable)
·       Ability to programme, including for virtual reality, or desire to learn


The first phase of this project will include a comprehensive literature review, identifying gaps in the published literature on visual standards for driving, with a focus on the history of the New Zealand driving standards and how they relate to those in other developed countries. The second phase of the research will be to develop a virtual reality environment in which to test driving performance. The final phase of the project will be to undertake virtual reality, driving-simulator based testing in participants with visual field loss due to glaucoma and macular degeneration, and healthy controls. The aims of this phase will be to assess driving performance in different contrast conditions, and to analyse the participants’ eye movements during the testing.


Other information

This project will be hosted by the School of Optometry and Vision Science, and is part of a collaborative project between the School of Optometry and the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Auckland

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