Vision Loss and Driving

Jul 18, 2016

Vision Loss and Driving

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In 2012, there were nearly 36 million licensed drivers aged 65 and older in the United States. While seniors that can drive get to maintain their mobility and independence, your risk of being injured or killed in a car crash increases as your get older. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control stated, "age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning ability to reason and remember), as well as physical changes may affect some older adults driving abilities."

How Vision Loss Effects Driving

That is not to say that older adults cannot or should not be driving. Instead, it is just important to know that as you age, your vision is likely to worsen, which can have a poor effect on your ability to safely operate a vehicle.

Poor Night Vision

Many Americans suffer from poor night vision. It’s possible that night vision problems are an early signifier of cataracts, night blindness, retinitis pigmentosa, or something as simple as a need for glasses. If you are having trouble seeing at night you should see your doctor, and they will dilate your pupils in order to find the root of the problem.

If it is cataracts, then cataract surgery is a good option to replace the clouded lens on the eye with a clearer manufactured one. Vitamin A or Zinc deficiencies causing night blindness also have simple fixes. Night driving, however, has an increased level of difficulty with the beams from headlights, decreased vision field, and dim lighting, so it would be beneficial to avoid night driving as you age.

Safe Driving Tips with Aging Eyes

There are many things that you can do to make sure you or your senior are staying safe while driving. Some of these tips include:

  • See your eye doctor annually.
  • Ask your doctor for advice on ways to improve your eyesight (surgery may be an option).
  • Make sure your contact lenses and/or glasses prescription is up-to-date.
  • Always wear your prescribed lenses or glasses while driving.
  • Think about getting eyeglasses and sunglasses that have wide frames or temples.
  • Try to avoid driving at night or drive in the dark as little as possible.
  • Avoid driving during sunrise or sunset when the sun can be directly hitting your line of vision.
  • Use extra caution at intersections and turn your head more often to compensate for decreasing peripheral vision.
  • Avoid driving in poor weather.

Age-Related Vision Problems Affecting Senior’s Driving Ability

Aging can affect the eyes in many different ways. Being aware of possible symptoms can put you at less risk when behind the wheel.

  • Road signs may become increasingly difficult to see clearly.
  • Gauges in your care that are closest to you may become more difficult to read.
  • Judging distances and speed may be less accurate.
  • Color perception can become a problem.
  • Seeing in low light, bad weather, or at night can be challenging, and the glare from headlights may be harder to adapt to.
  • Side vision also becomes less clear.

Consider a Driving Course for Seniors

There are programs for older drivers in your area that help you learn to compensate for changes due to aging that have the potential to affect your driving ability. Some of these programs are offered by AARP, and their website can offer courses near you as well as coupons for the course.

Look here for AARP Smart Driver Courses offered near you:

Online options are also available and could help you earn a discount on your car insurance.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I was told my diabetes can affect my vision. Is this true?

Yes, unfortunately diabetes can actually cause damage to the eyes. What happens is essentially this - higher blood glucose levels cause blood to become thicker, leading to more fluid around the lenses of the eye and blurred vision. High blood pressure is another way that the optic nerve can become damaged and can lead to blindness. If one’s blood glucose goes unchecked, retinopathy can cause permanent eye damage as well. Staying on top of your condition is one way to maintain healthy vision into your golden years!v

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Can you go blind from having a stroke?

While it is possible to go blind after having a stroke, it is rare. Most strokes only affect one side of the brain. But, because the eye nerves travel together in the brain, both eyes can be affected.

Vision problems stemming from a stroke may include:

  • Visual agnosia: when you have difficulty recognizing familiar faces and objects by sight
  • Nystagmus: This is a condition characterized by an unsteady movement of the eyes when trying to focus their vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Having trouble controlling eye movements

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