Driving is a complex task that requires focus, skill, and patience. You need to make sure all your senses are fully engaged, and nothing is distracting you while driving. Sight is the most critical sense for driving because you can’t drive if your vision is unreliable. It increases the risk of accidents and endangers people’s lives.
As we grow older, our eyesight problems become more dominant. Therefore, for older people, eyesight problems are more likely to impair their driving.
Drivers need to have adequate visual acuity. Wearing glasses or contact lenses can correct most defects in our vision. If you do not have perfect vision naturally, wearing glasses or lenses will compensate for those deficiencies.
Accidents caused by poor vision
There are no official estimates of the number of drivers and motorcyclists with eyesight that fail to meet the minimum legal standards. However, some studies suggest 2% to 3% of drivers have vision below the minimum legal standards. Poor vision causes around thousands of accidents every year. Accidents due to poor vision are also more common among elderly drivers because age can play a role is overall vision health.
As people age, they need to keep track of their vision and how it impacts their driving. Experts recommend regular testing and preventive measures to maintain proper vision health. A comprehensive eye-test will involve:
- A look at your medical history
- Visual acuity test
- Depth perception test
- Binocular vision test
- Slit-lamp exam
- Subjective refraction
Drivers should visit a trained optometrist for testing to get the most accurate reports on their eye health. They should also take steps to protect eye health as much as possible by eating a nutritious diet and sleeping for at least 7-8 hours a day. They should also limit screen time as much as possible, wear protective eyeglasses while working with computers or digital devices, and sunglasses while out in the sun.
What are the most important visual abilities to drive safely?
Most people do not realize just how much work their eyes do while driving. Here’s a look at what kinds of visual abilities you use during driving:
- Distance visual acuity – Studies show that even the most straightforward action during driving requires a response time of around 0.4 seconds. For example, if a red light comes on, you may need that much time to stop the car. Distance acuity is critical because it ensures you can see distant objects correctly and have enough time to respond. If you are in the habit of driving fast, distance vision is even more critical because there is less time to respond. Poor visual acuity is corrected by wearing spectacles or contact lenses with a proper prescription. Common eye conditions such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration also affect distance visual acuity.
- Accommodation – Accommodation is the ability to change focus between distant and near objects quickly without experiencing blurriness. Drivers should be able to read road signs, check vehicle activity, and look at their dashboard for information quickly. If your eyes take too long to focus between far and near objects, your response time will slow down, which can cause problems during driving. Presbyopia is an age-related condition that affects people starting usually from the age of 40. Multifocal and bifocal lenses help people that have reduced accommodation.
- Muscle balance – Muscles control eye movement, and well-balanced muscles ensure both of your eyes are pointed in the right direction. This is vital to maintain good depth perception and field of vision. People who have consumed alcohol or are tired have poor muscle balance, which leads to blurriness, lack of focus, poor depth perception, and narrowed the field of vision. All these problems are dangerous and cause many road accidents.
What other visual abilities help you drive safely?
- Color perception – Many colorblind people drive, but they need to adjust their technique and make sure they understand the position of the traffic signals properly to respond. However, color perception is vital for driving as it lets people identify traffic signs accurately and respond accordingly. You need to know when a vehicle’s brake lights or stop lights come on to slow your car down as well.
- Peripheral vision – Peripheral vision provides a lot of information while driving. You can see cars moving on either side of your vehicle, look at pedestrian activity, see cars coming towards you from the side. Without peripheral vision, drivers cannot make smart driving decisions about turns, signals, stopping, or avoiding pedestrian movement. That can easily lead to severe accidents because drivers cannot make snap decisions without getting information. Disorders like glaucoma, pituitary conditions, and damage to the optical nerve are conditions that can reduce your peripheral vision.
- Night vision – This is the ability to clearly in dim light. People with night vision impairment can drive without issues during the day but must stop driving in low-light conditions. Dim light conditions can be present during the daytime as well, which is why night vision is essential. Many roads have tunnels or dark spots that require your eyes to adjust to different lighting conditions.
- Depth Perception – Depth perception allows drivers to gauge the distance between cars or a car and an obstacle. It ensures you make the right decisions while taking turns or changing lanes. You need both eyes functioning correctly to have good depth perception. Unfortunately, this is a common problem with drivers and causes several minor accidents every year. People with amblyopia (lazy eye) and people with monovision have reduced depth perception.
A few important reasons why good vision is necessary when we drive
Good vision is necessary for several reasons. Experts speculate that 90% of the tasks we perform require healthy vision. People with impairments often must alter their habits or come up with ways to work around the vision problems. That’s not always possible when it comes to driving. Here is a list of reasons why good vision is necessary.
This list shows just how important it is to maintain good eye health if you want to drive for a long time. Glasses, lenses, and other such visual aid tools can help you have enough visual acuity to drive safely.
A list of visual challenges for drivers
- Noticing obstacles quickly – Good vision allows people to notice obstacles quickly. You’ll be able to spot a cat crossing the road, see speed bumps, notice signal changes, rocks on the road, and other such factors quickly during driving. That can help drivers avoid risky situations.
- Turning or crossing lanes safely – Taking turns and crossing lanes requires a lot of focus. You need to take note of signals, oncoming traffic, road signs, cars moving alongside you, and other such factors. Good vision can aid in all these factors.
- Following road signs indications – Traffic signals are necessary to ensure the vehicles move calmly and in an orderly fashion. When drivers violate traffic signals, they can get into trouble. Good vision is essential to follow all traffic light changes accurately.
- Responding to unexpected changes – Unexpected changes like a kid running into your path or a vehicle before you brake abruptly require quick responses. It can only happen if you notice the issue in time, and that requires keen eyesight.
- Recognizing unsafe driving conditions – Unsafe driving conditions like oil-slick roads, large debris, big potholes, black ice, etc, all can lead to serious accidents. A keen eye can spot these issues quickly and help drivers avoid mishaps.
- Checking your car’s dashboard and navigation system – A car’s dashboard and navigation system provides a lot of information about fuel, speed, engine performance, etc. The navigation system allows people to get from one place to another without any problems. Drivers need keen eyes to keep track of this information and still maintain their attention on the road.
What are the signs of poor vision?
Most people lose some visual acuity as they age or develop some health conditions. Drivers should always look at the signs carefully and take measures to counteract issues as soon as possible. If you notice difficulties while driving, it is better to look at alternative modes of transport until the issue is addressed. Here’s a list of signs that indicate you may need assistance:
- Decrease in visual acuity – If you experience frequent blurry vision or decrease in visual acuity, stop driving, and get tested as quickly as possible. A reduction in vision can cause problems with focus, responsiveness, and observation, which can lead to severe accidents.
- Difficulty reading – Some drivers can see objects and roads well but need to squint to read or can’t read well. This means they are not able to understand road signs, which can lead to driving problems and accidents as well. If letters on road signs appear blurry or indistinct, visit a doctor before attempting to drive.
- Glares and halos – Glares and halos from oncoming headlights can also cause accidents and places your life at risk. In most cases, people don’t experience this unless they have underlying vision issues. If you flinch in the glare of headlights or streetlights regularly, visit a doctor before getting behind the wheel again.
All these issues can hamper a person’s ability to drive and place their lives at risk if they get behind the wheel.
Some eye problems that compromise your driving
Several medical conditions can compromise vision health and hamper a person’s ability to drive. Some of those conditions include:
- Presbyopia – This condition develops when your eyes start to lose their flexibility. People usually experience presbyopia in their 30s and 40s, primarily if they work with computers or mobile phones. Presbyopia for drivers can be addressed with progressive lenses (multifocal lenses).
- Cataracts – Cataracts are common among the elderly population, but it can occur in young people too. It happens when proteins clump together in a person’s eye and affect their vision. A short and straightforward surgery can remove cataracts and restore proper vision.
- Dry eye – Dry eye is also a common problem that develops with age. Pregnant or menopausal women also experience it, which can limit their ability to drive. Some eye drops or medication can help with this problem.
Other common eye problems include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Some of these conditions can be addressed through treatment and medication. Doctors may advise patients to give up driving entirely if the vision doesn’t return to a healthy state.
It is essential for drivers to get regular eye exams, especially after they are in their 30s. Even people with good vision health can start developing issues as they age. Regular check-ups can help you keep track of your eye health and ensure you always drive safely. Also, it’s necessary to address vision issues sooner than later.
Stay safe on the road: Address vision problems in time
Most vision issues can be corrected and will allow you to continue driving. All you may need is corrective glasses or lenses. Today, there are many spectacle lens products and advanced contact lenses available. A good optometrist would be able to recommend which ones would work best for you.
Some people require medical treatment or surgeries but are still able to continue driving after they have recovered. Drivers should never underestimate just how vital proper vision is for driving.
When should you have your eyes examined?
One of the best ways to ensure that your good vision persists so that you can be safe on the road is to have a regular eye examination.
The eye exam will involve a series of different tests that will evaluate the quality of your vision. Not only will this help to determine if corrective lenses are necessary for driving, but it will also serve as a check for eye diseases that can develop over time.
A variety of instruments are part of the examination. You may have bright lights shined directly into your eyes, and then there may be a series of lenses to look through to evaluate every aspect of your vision health.
Adults in their 20s or 30s can sometimes have their eyes checked every 5-10 years if no vision problems are occurring. For everyone else, this schedule is one you may wish to consider following:
- Adults between the ages of 40-54 should have a vision exam every two to four years.
- If you are between the ages of 55-64, then have your eyesight checked every 1-3 years.
- Anyone over the age of 65 should have their eyes examined every 1-2 years.
If you wear contact lenses or glasses for driving, then you should consider an annual eye exam to ensure that there are no changes to your prescription. Anyone with a family history that includes vision loss or eye disease should also come in annually. (BOOK AN APPOINTMENT)
Lenses that can help you drive safely
At Visio Optical, we are happy to offer lenses that are specifically designed for driving. Here are our recommendations.
ZEISS DriveSafe – ZEISS Duravision DriveSafe is a special lens coating specifically designed to make driving safer and more comfortable. ZEISS DriveSafe is available for both single vision and progressive lenses types. (READ MORE)
Rodenstock Road 2 – Rodenstock developed its Road 2 coating that reduces glare and enables you to drive calmly and with confidence. Rodenstock Road 2 is optimal for frequent drivers and for mobile use in everyday life. (READ MORE)
DriveWear – DriveWear lenses are sunglass lenses that darken and change color based on current driving conditions. DriveWear lenses are also polarized to block blinding glare, another distinct advantage when driving a car. (READ MORE)