Sadly, it is an unavoidable fact that as we age most of us experience difficulty with our vision. This becomes even more evident when it comes to driving. Do you remember how excited you were when you got your first drivers license? You went through all the training, passed the vision test, and the road test. All that work to receive a little plastic card that proved you knew the rules of driving safely.
As we age our eyes and our memories can begin to fail us. It can reach the point where we are no longer able to pass all these tests. There are some signs that your vision may be deteriorating, so ask yourself if you have begun to experience difficulty in these areas:
- reading road signs
- problems dealing with the glare of oncoming traffic at night
- problems telling red and green traffic lights apart
Don’t feel lonely! Many people over the age of 65 are having the same problems. Many younger people are also experiencing these problems as well.
In the US, we have a large population of people over the age of 65 thanks to the Baby Boomer era. Many states have begun to revise their vision screening for elderly drivers, making testing more strict to make sure older drivers are safe drivers.
Driving regulations and the vision screening required have been a matter of state law. This means that they vary considerably from one state to another. Some examples of this are:
- In Florida (a state with a high elderly population that requires a standard vision of only 20/70 in at least one eye with or without eyeglasses), if applicants have a clean driving record, they may renew their license by mail twice and may not have to take the vision screening test for 18 years.
- In Vermont, a vision test is only given when someone initially applies for a driver’s license, but not when they are renewing their license.
- Arizona issues a lifetime license for drivers up to age 65, but all applicants must visit a licensing office every 12 years to apply for a duplicate license and have their vision retested.
- In Iowa, whether a driver is first applying for or renewing a license, they must take and pass a vision test. All drivers must renew their license every four years until age 70, at which point the renewal cycles changes to every two years.
One of the problems with knowing when you should give up the wheel to a younger driver stems from understanding just how much your vision has changed. In most cases vision deteriorates slowly, making it difficult for people to realize just how bad their eyesight has become. It happens so gradually that it comes as a shock to many older drivers when they realize that they just can’t see the road anymore.
Some states are taking steps to increase vision testing for older drivers in order to ensure that their vision will not endanger themselves or others while driving.
USA Today reports that “California is analyzing results of a pilot project in which drivers who failed an initial written or vision test were required to take additional tests, sometimes including an eye exam and a road test.”
Further, “Maryland state law allows police, doctors, and residents, including relatives, to refer potentially unfit drivers to the Motor Vehicle Administration’s Medical Advisory Board. Police refer about 700 people annually; about 60% of them are drivers over age 65.”
In many states older drivers now have to renew their driver’s license more often than younger drivers. They may also have to take a vision test each time they renew their license. This is not a case of state’s discriminating against older drivers, although some people may feel this way. This has become a wide spread problem and these states are attempting to ensure the safety of their older residents.
Insurance companies are also becoming involved with the issues raised by deteriorating vision in older people. AAA has designed a program, “Roadwise Review: A Tool to Help Seniors Drive Safely Longer”, which considers eight mental and physical abilities that have been shown to affect the safe driving practices.
Half of these abilities have to do with vision; both high contrast and low contrast visual acuity are included. The program provides feedback so that the person taking it can make a more informed decision on their ability to drive safely.
There is help!
Some of the problems experienced by older drivers can be prevented with simple changes in their diets and eye exercises that can help them regain their visual acuity.
The sooner you change your diet to include the vitamins and minerals that can help your eyes retain their strength the better. It is never too early to start an eye healthy diet. If you don’t have the time for an extensive change in the foods you normally eat, you may want to consider a good eye vitamin or eye supplement instead. The important thing is to get the nutrients that your eyes need to stay healthy as long as possible.
Eye exercises can also help to retrain your vision so that it is easier to read road signs and focus on objects that are becoming blurry. The first step is to realize and admit to yourself that you are experiencing some vision problems. From there you can begin to work on a solution. You should speak to your eye doctor as soon as you begin to suspect that your vision is deteriorating.
Do you really want to be responsible for endangering those in the car with you, or other vehicles on the road with you? Don’t take chances with your vision!