Driving With Your Eyes Closed
The Blink Of An Eye
We demand a lot from our eyes while driving. We depend on them to see where we are going and to help us judge distance. We depend on our eyes to read street markings, lights and road signs. Our eyes enable us to watch out for hazards, pedestrians and animals. We expect our eyes to focus on the distance in one instant and then refocus on our dash, our radio and in our mirrors in another instant. The amount of information that our eyes see and allow us to process while driving is truly astonishing… but what about what we don’t see while driving? What do we miss when we blink?
I recently received a new pair of driving sunglasses by Petrol Eyewear and in a roundabout way they inspired me to wonder… How much of our driving is done with our eyes closed?
What if I took vehicle speed, time and distance traveled, average blink rate and blink speed… could I figure out a total distance driven while blinking? Hmm… Here’s my interesting (but likely useless!) findings.
First, according to Wikipedia the average human blinks about once every 6 seconds and that blink lasts for 100-400 milliseconds (average 1/4 per second). There are many variables that effect blink rate and duration, but for our purposes I’ll just use the nice tidy 1/4 second duration for calculations.
Our Daily Commute in the Blink of an Eye
A 1/4 of a second doesn’t sound like much, but what does it equate to for the average driver on their daily commute? Well, let’s say our morning drive takes about 15 minutes and we average about 35 miles per hour. At 35 mph, you’ll travel almost 13 feet in the time it takes you to blink! That’s slightly longer than a standard 2-door Mini Cooper!
Now, consider the 10 blink per minute average from Wikipedia. In the 15 minutes it took us to complete our drive we would have blinked 150 times. That means that we spent over 1/3 of a mile (about 1920 feet) WITH OUR EYES CLOSED!!!
Our Road Trip or Weekend Getaway in the Blink of an Eye
What about a summer road trip? About 3 times per year I take my family to visit my sister and her family in San Diego. Google estimates the drive to take about 5 hours 15 minutes and its aroud 360 miles. Using Google’s estimates we’ll average about 68.6mph and at this speed, we’ll travel 25.2 feet every time we blink. That’s just shy of the length of a standard UPS truck! By the time we arrive in San Diego, after blinking 3,150 times, we have just missed over 15 miles of our trip because our eyes were closed.
What does a blink of an eye mean to professional race car driver?
In racing, the blink of an eye can mean the difference between winning and losing. Let’s punch some real world numbers for three different professional motor sports; Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Best in the Desert Racing and NASCAR.
Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the Blink of an Eye
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb challenges drivers in a race against time as they sprint to the finish located at the summit of Pikes Peak over 14,000 feet up. For everyday visitors the road to the summit is a leisure 20-35 mph scenic drive. It starts in the tall pines and slowly climbs up above the tree line. Eventually, after 156 turns (many of which are switchbacks) you arrive at the summit.
In 2012 Doug Siddens raced a home built Polaris RZR and finished the 12.42 mile race in a class record time of 10:40.669. This means he averaged 69.84 MPH and traveled over 25.6′ each time he blinked. After reaching the summit Siddens had just driven over 1/2 a mile of the steep, switchback mountain road with his eyes closed! I have driven this road myself and considering the conditions… I think I would want to tape my eyes open if I were to race it.
Best In The Desert Vegas to Reno Race in the Blink of an Eye
In an opposite ecosystem, desert racing can also yield some interesting conclusions. In 2013 Mel Wade of Off Road Evolution took on the longest off road race in the United States, the Best in the Desert Vegas to Reno race. This race is a 548 mile long endurance sprint through desert terrain connecting Las Vegas and Reno, NV. Maintaining speed in this race is very difficult but Wade was able to reach a top speed over 95mph and, after considering all pits and on track repairs, his average speed was 30.14mph. After the checkered flag was waved, and the dusted had settled, Wade’s finish time of 18:11 meant that he had blasted through over 22.6 desert miles with his eyes closed.
NASCAR Nationwide U.S. Cellular 250 in the Blink of an Eye
As I round the last corner in my motorsports calculations I decided I want to go fast and turn left just like Discount Tire’s NASCAR Driver Brad Keselowski. In 2013 Brad Keselowski won the Nationwide U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. His total race time was 1:56:58. During the 218.75 mile race Keselowski averaged 112.211mph. This means that every time he blinked, Keselowski traveled an average of 41.1 feet! That is almost 2 1/2 NASCAR car lengths. (think about that next time you watch a race) After the checked flag had flown Keselowski had driven 9.12 miles of the race with his eyes closed. Considering the Iowa Speedway track is .875 miles long this means Brad Keselowski had driven almost 10.5 laps…. WITH HIS EYES CLOSED!
Final thoughts in the Blink of an Eye
Now, the reality is that we blink only about one time every six seconds. One could argue that during our blink we can still see to some extent until our eyelids are almost all the way shut. Perhaps, my accumulative calculations might be able to be cut shorter. Anyway you dice it, its still fun to think about.
I’m pretty excited to have a new pair of sunglasses to try out. After a deeper look into the brand, Petrol claims their optics “increase depth perception, sharpen vision, reduce eye fatigue, and protect the wearer from harmful UV and high-intensity visible light“. If their sunglasses do indeed improve the performance of my eyes and reduce eye fatigue, maybe I’ll blink less while driving and get to see more of what I have been missing.