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CHECKUP IN CONTRAST, NOT ALL DRIVERS ARE TRULY EQUAL.

Byline: - Staff and Wire Services

Even if your vision is fairly sharp, you're a lot more likely to crash your car if you have problems telling light from dark, a new study says.

Drivers with cataracts who had caused at least one crash in the previous five years were almost eight times as likely to have severe problems with what's called ``contrast sensitivity'' as drivers - with or without cataracts - who had never crashed, the study found.

Think of the contrast knob on your television, said study lead author Cynthia Owsley, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The higher the contrast between light and dark, the clearer the image.

``Things become enormously more visible,'' she added. ``Contrast perception is one of the major building blocks of vision.''

Previous studies have shown that older drivers need three times as much light as teen-agers and take twice as much time to register light changes, said Mantill Williams, director of public affairs for the American Automobile Association in Washington, D.C. As you age, your eye's lens loses its ability to focus quickly, and your retina becomes less sensitive to light. Add in cataracts, which are a gradual clouding of the lens, and you can have real problems, he said.

``Since 90 percent of all decisions made while driving are based on information acquired through the eyes, good vision is crucial to driving,'' Williams added.

The study focused on older people because they are the fastest-growing group of drivers - and have a crash rate double that of younger drivers.

BIRTH ORDER AND CAREERS: First-born children and children from one-child families are more likely to grow up to favor occupations that require intellectual or cognitive skills, an Ohio State University study has found.

Later-born children, on the other hand, are more interested in artistic and outdoors-related careers, psychologist Frederick T.L. Leong reported in the Journal of Career Assessment. The study included 159 medical students and 119 undergraduate students majoring in a wide variety of academic fields.

Leong speculated that parents may be more protective of first-born or only children, thereby leading them into academic pursuits, while parents of later-born children are more open and relaxed, allowing them to be more risk-taking.

BLOOD SHORTAGE: Last Friday the Red Cross announced a severe shortage of blood in its banks nationwide. The crisis is affecting area hospitals, which can only get Red Cross type O blood for emergency surgeries. West Hills Hospital is experiencing its worst blood shortage in more than 40 years. Like the Red Cross, the hospital is seeking donations of O positive and negative blood. The blood is needed for open heart surgeries, neonatal care, emergency surgeries and oncology patients whose hemoglobin count is down. To make an appointment to donate blood at West Hills Hospital, call (818) 676-4191. The blood donation center is open from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays. To donate blood to the Red Cross, call (800) 448-3543 (GIVE-LIFE). Spanish-speakers can dial (888) 767-3286 (POR-FAVOR).
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 2, 2001
Words:518
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