Road Safety: How Your Aging Eyesight Affects Your Driving

Getting behind the wheel in your 40s is quite different from driving as a teenager. At this time of your life, aging may start to take its toll on your body and impede your once strong vision. Being a crucial safety driving requirement, having good eyesight is essential to stay away from the hazards of the road. In 2018, the breakdown of all crashes in Arizona tallied at 127,056. In the same year, there were 146 individuals injured every day and one person was killed every 8 hours and 39 minutes. 

person drivingThere is a dramatic increase in people entering retirement age. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people over the age of 65 is forecasted to double between 2019 and 2050. One decade from now, one in five American residents will gain senior citizen status. 

It’s crucial to notice age-related vision changes early. This will allow you and your ophthalmologist to find solutions and correct any issues that can prevent you from navigating safely. In this article, we tackle the driving issues most seniors experience. We will also discuss tips for driving safely as you age, as well as signs that reveal your eyesight may be too poor for hitting the road. 

How Vision Decline Affect Driving

There are various changes in your eyesight that are normal and unavoidable as you age. Be aware of these issues and see a doctor to improve your vision for driving. 

  • Presbyopia – This condition is common in adults nearing their 40s. Presbyopia is the term for having difficulty seeing things up close. To drive safely, you must be able to see what’s in front of your and read signs to avoid hitting objects. This ability is also important for parking correctly and completing other important driving functions.
  • Decreased pupil size – The pupil size decreases with age, which means eyes become less responsive to shifts in light. Seniors need more ambient light to see clearly. Bright sunlight also causes glare that can be burdensome for people with reduced pupil size. Temporary loss of clear vision is another effect of glare, which is dangerous if you’re driving. It can also impede your normal reaction time. 
  • Myopia – More popularly known as nearsightedness, this condition can develop as a myopic creep or a disorder that worsens with age. When you have myopia, it takes more effort to discern highway signs or spot hazards and vehicles in the distance.
  • Vitreous detachment – Most of the eye’s interior is filled with vitreous, a gel-like substance between the lens and the retina. Aging causes the vitreous and its fibers to shrink and pull on the retina, leading to a condition called vitreous detachment. Its main symptoms are flashes of light, spots, or floaters. On foot, these effects are mostly harmless, but they can impact your line of vision once you get behind the wheel.
  • Dry eyes – Older people tend to produce fewer tears, resulting in dry eyes. This condition often causes stinging or burning sensations. If you experience this while driving, it can be distracting and dangerous. Talk to your eye doctor for prescription eye drops to help lubricate and nourish your eyes.
  • Loss of peripheral vision – Peripheral vision dwindles by up to three degrees for every decade of life. By the time you reach your 70s, you may already have lost about 20 degrees of your peripheral vision. This reduction can affect your ability to watch out for vehicles around you while you’re changing lanes, especially if there are obstacles in blind spots.
  • Challenges with low light – As you enter your golden years, your ability to see clearly in dim lighting decreases. This can make driving at sunset and later more challenging.

Go for a regular eye exam annually. This will allow your doctor to detect changes in your vision and provide solutions to improve how you see. You don’t have to stop driving once you enter your 60s, but it pays to make sure your eyes are sharp when you hit the road.

Arizona Driving Vision Regulations

The Arizona Department of Transportation requires a medical and vision exam for all would-be drivers. You must have uncorrected vision of 20/40 or better in at least one eye to get an unrestricted license. You will be given a “B” restriction if you wear glasses or contact lenses for distance vision. This means that you must always wear these devices while driving. 

Photo updates and vision screening for driver’s licenses in Arizona are mandated every 12 years. After reaching the retirement age of 65, drivers in the area must renew their licenses every five years. However, seniors may be limited to driving from sunrise to sunset only, as there could be certain restrictions placed for this age group.

Before renewing your license, be sure to visit an eye doctor first. That way, you can get the right eyewear and pass your vision test without hassle.

Driving Tips For Seniors

For your safety and of those around you, make it a point to get regular eye examinations and adhere to your ophthalmologist’s orders. Apart from wearing your prescription contacts or glasses, here are other driving tips to help with your aging vision.

  • Improve your nighttime visibility – According to Popular Mechanics, road fatalities happen three times as often at night compared to daytime. Look for eyeglass options that can help you see the road better after sunset. You can also dim your dashboard lights.
  • Drive on familiar roads – Plan your trips ahead of time. Stay on familiar roads especially if you’re driving at night.
  • Minimize glare – Let your doctor know if you often experience glare on the road. To cut down on glare, you could try eyeglasses that have wavefront diagnostic technology or lenses that have an anti-reflective coating. 

It is possible to age without experiencing any problems with eyesight. But as the case for most adults, a decline in vision and other changes are often expected. Experts at Arizona Retinal Specialists are here to ensure your eyes stay sharp for when you hit the road. Get your eyes checked today and remain a safe driver.

NOTICE TO USERS is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on