Distracted Driving and Poor Vision: A Deadly Combination

Distracted driving has long been a concern on our roads, with most of us associating it with the presence of cell phones and the dangers of texting while behind the wheel. Additionally, being under the influence of alcohol or narcotics often comes to mind when discussing the perils of distracted driving. However, another threat deserves our attention: impaired vision.

About 3 in 4 Americans prefer driving over flying, making road travel a likely choice for upcoming vacations. But long journeys on the road require more than filling the gas tank and checking tire pressure; the driver’s healthy vision is non-negotiable, too.

Distracted Driving Awareness Month brings attention to the connection between eye health and driving safety. This often-overlooked aspect of road safety reminds us that clear vision is essential for navigating the highways and byways effectively. Just as we inspect our vehicles for mechanical issues before driving, we must also ensure that our eyesight is up to the task before getting in the driver’s seat.

In this article, we’ll explore the intersection of driving and eye health, examining warning signs of vision problems while behind the wheel, the significance of recognizing and responding to road signs, and the legal and moral responsibilities of drivers to prioritize road safety. Shedding light on this lesser-known side of distracted driving helps to raise awareness and encourage proactive measures to safeguard ourselves and others on the road.


Low Vision and Driving

Poor eyesight can pose risks to both drivers and pedestrians. Vision problems can progress gradually, often without us realizing that we’re putting ourselves and others in danger every time we take the wheel.

Drivers must pay attention to warning signs of vision problems, including:

  • Difficulties reading the dashboard or road signs can signal issues with near or far vision. Dry eyes and/or vision problems that prescription eyewear can correct are the probable causes.
  • The presence of dark spots in your vision could be a sign of peripheral vision loss due to glaucoma and/or age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • Halos or glare from street lights or headlights can impede your ability to see clearly, particularly at night. This glare may be exacerbated by conditions such as AMD, cataracts, or night blindness. Considering road signs often rely on distinctive colors and shapes for recognition, compromised color vision can prevent you from interpreting and responding to important traffic signals.

Ignoring the warning signs of vision problems can have dire consequences, not only for you as the driver but for all those sharing the road. Recognizing the importance of maintaining optimal eye health empowers you to take steps to ensure you’re fit to drive, reducing the risk of accidents and promoting safer roadways.


Distracted Driving Statistics in the United States

Distracted driving endangers everyone on the road, including drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and others. Each year, about 3,000 individuals die in car accidents caused by distracted drivers. This makes up approximately 8% to 9% of all recorded motor vehicle fatalities on U.S. roads.

Furthermore, according to available figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injuries and deaths were higher in 2019 than the previous year. Other notable statistics include:

  • Drivers are quadruple times more likely to cause an accident if they use a phone while driving.
  • About 8 people die in a car accident involving a distracted driver every day.
  • Distracted drivers are responsible for over 26,000 deaths from 2012 to 2019.
  • Around 400,000 people sustained injuries from car accidents in 2018.
  • In 2018, 1 in 5 of the people who died in an accident associated with a distracted driver were walking, jogging, cycling, or being mere pedestrians. They were not in a car.
  • Young drivers (especially teenage boys and girls) are more prone to distractions than older drivers.


Graduated Driver Licensing

The legal consequences of distracted driving can vary depending on the state. Nonetheless, the differences don’t make the behavior any less risky.

Forty-eight states, including Arizona, prohibit texting while driving.

In addition, many states enforce restrictions on the number of passengers allowed for young drivers after obtaining their license, as part of a program called Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL). GDL has three stages aimed at enhancing a new driver’s safety in both the short and long term:

  • Learner’s permit: Requires passing written and practical driving exams, permitting supervised driving with a licensed adult before obtaining a full license.
  • Intermediate/provisional license: Allows driving without adult supervision but with limitations, such as a limited number of passengers under 18 and night driving restrictions.
  • Unrestricted license: Removes restrictions after a specified period.

Please refer to Arizona GDL Laws for a complete guide, including specifications on learner stage duration, required supervised driving hours, passenger restrictions, and more.


Repercussions of Distracted Driving

According to Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, penalties range from $75 to $149 for the first offense, and $150 to $250 for repeat offenses. If your distracted driving causes an accident resulting in severe injury or death (class 1 misdemeanor), you can face up to six months in jail and a fine of $2,500.

Fines and penalties aside, there’s more to distracted driving than disobeying the law. Distracted drivers are irresponsible, endangering themselves and the lives of others.

Do not get behind the wheel or continue driving if you know that you’re preoccupied, intoxicated, or if something is interfering with your focus. Your actions can have irreversible consequences.


Keep Your Eyes Healthy to Drive Responsibly

You must stay attentive while driving, and having clear vision is part of that focus. If you find street signs, lights, or landmarks becoming fuzzy during your drives, or if nighttime driving becomes challenging due to poor visibility, book an appointment with an eye doctor in Sun City, AZ.

After your appointment, remember to schedule regular or follow-up eye check-ups, too. Some vision issues that affect driving might be indiscernible to you, but a doctor can catch them during a dilated eye exam, ensuring your vision is in top shape for the road. Dial 623-474-3937 to meet our world-renowned retinal specialists today.


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