My dad has always told me not to read things (just books/papers inside the car) while the car was moving. When I asked why, he said that it puts too much strain on your eyes because the book/paper is moving around. Is this true?

Same for reading a book while walking?

  • 2
    If you're reading while walking and crossing a street or while driving it could be harmful. Only a comment since I don't have any sources for that.
    – Zano
    Jan 30, 2013 at 11:57
  • 13
    Personally, I get carsick when trying to read in a car, so for me, it's certainly harmful. I've tried reading while walking but found it hard to keep balance.
    – gerrit
    Jan 30, 2013 at 12:23
  • 1
    I know many people who cannot read while moving as it makes them sick; but many others who can read while moving fine. I'm unaware of any followup studies on the benefits of abstaining from reading in moving vehicles for people who don't get sick.
    – Nick
    Jan 30, 2013 at 16:08
  • It's like seasickness, I guess - the more you read in a vehicle, the less trouble your brain gives you. It might seem a chicken-or-egg thing, but I believe those who get sick reading in a car just haven't done it long enough and often enough to get past the initial hump.
    – user10765
    Jan 31, 2013 at 5:42
  • 3
    @Fadeway its hard to get past that initial hump when you start eating backwards.
    – Stefan
    Jan 31, 2013 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


I don't think this is correct. Your eye muscles might get 'tired' but there's no reason for damage to the eye to occur in terms of vision. Our eyes have evolved to compensate for motion very well. There is a similar myth that reading in low light damages the eye.

You're more likely to have a problem with car sickness. This is thought to be caused by a conflict in stimulus signals between your eyes and ears. Your eyes, focused on a relatively static object a few inches away, are telling your brain that you're still. Your inner ear, however, is sensing the forward motion of the car.

The thinking is that the brain assumes that the conflict is caused by something you've eaten; in evolutionary terms eating poison berries (etc.) that caused disorientation would have happened a lot more often than travelling at 70mph. So the brain tries to induce vomiting by causing intense nausea.

This is why it is a good idea to look up every so often and look out the window, so your eyes 'agree' with your inner ear. Read Here : http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/science/15qna.html?_r=0

  • Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims.
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 30, 2013 at 21:25
  • Sorry, meant to. Edited to include a link. Wikipedia also has a good summary: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Jan 30, 2013 at 21:29
  • Excellent, thanks! Gonna have tons of fun reading when I get that Kindle.
    – Jason
    Jan 31, 2013 at 8:26
  • "in evolutionary terms eating poison berries" Interesting. Can you provide some link this is an accepted or common explanation?
    – Suma
    Jan 31, 2013 at 10:31
  • The article linked to in the answer, or from the Wiki article "The most common hypothesis for the cause of motion sickness is that it functions as a defense mechanism against neurotoxins." Jan 31, 2013 at 10:49

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