One in seven drivers now is over 65, and by 2030 the number of drivers over 65 will have doubled. Reduced night vision is a serious traffic hazard for patients in this age group. The retina of an 80-year-old receives far less light than that of a 20-year-old. Older drivers may have a higher risk of motor accidents.
The U.S. Centers for Disease (CDC) statistics show that older motorists are more likely to be involved in traffic deaths. According to an American Medical Association statement, this large number of senior drivers is a public health issue due to age-related declines in vision, cognition and motor function. As we age, certain medical conditions may interfere with vision, including:
- Lens sclerosis or yellowing of the lens (cataract)
- Uncorrected refractive error (with age most eyes progress towards more hyperopic less myopic)
- Spherical aberration (a higher order aberration) increases with age
- Comma (another higher order aberration) increases with age
- Corneal dryness increases with age (particularly in women)
- Macular degeneration incidence increases with age
- Medications can impair night vision and corneal hydration
- Eye diseases such as glaucoma can reduce peripheral (and central) vision
- Pupil size reduces with age causing less light to enter the eye
Fortunately a number of things can be done to help older drivers. First, undergo routine health exams to ensure that diseases are diagnosed and treated.
Second, maintain an updated driving prescription. New lenses offer aberration correcting optics that are specific to an individual drivers eyes. These lenses improve night vision including recognition time which allows drivers to see objects sooner. Additionally, improved glare-free lens coatings now offer better performance and durability.
Third, Cataracts Aberration Correcting and Astigmatic Correcting lens implants are available for patients in need. Both of these can improve night driving performance.
Finally, if your ophthalmologist feels you shouldn’t drive at night, he/she will explain why and help you find alternatives.
Over 60% of patients 65 and older are affected by cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration, making regular vision care a necessity.
Dr. Greg Evans is the founding owner of Evans Eye Care in La Quinta. He can be reached at 760-564-4430.