Published on Mar 31, 2015 by Edgar Snyder

What All Middle-Aged Drivers Need to Know About Eyesight

The Surprising Ways Age Affects Driving

Many are quick to call out teenagers for their risky driving habits, but they aren't the only age group making dangerous moves behind the wheel. Middle-aged drivers, (those between the ages of 45 – 65), who are unaware of their declining eyesight may be putting themselves and their fellow motorists at risk.

Eyesight as You Age

Recent studies have found that about half of all American adults have less than perfect vision, i.e., do not have 20/20 vision, because they are nearsighted, farsighted, or have an astigmatism. Although many of these adults wear corrective lenses, they may not realize that numerous other factors that come into play after age 40 can affect eyesight.

One-third of those 40 and older will be affected by age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or cataracts. On top of our risk for developing these issues, eyes age along with the rest of our bodies, and certain changes in our bodies can significantly impact older eyes. The risk for middle-aged drivers exists because this gradual decline in vision happens over time, and many don't realize that they've developed a visual impairment at all.

Look below for the various ways that middle-aged drivers can be affected by changes in their eyesight:

Night Driving

As we age, our pupils become smaller and don't dilate as quickly in the dark. This means that to see clearly, a 60-year-old needs two-thirds more light than a 20-year-old. Some maintain that this leads older drivers to function as if they were wearing dark sunglasses at night.

The loss of light perception during middle age seriously reduces our ability to see well in the dark—try reducing your driving speed at night to compensate. And, take a look at these 7 Tips to Help You Drive Safely When It's Dark.

Accommodation (near vision focusing)

The ability to change focus from far to near is called accommodation or near vision focusing. Although you may have never needed glasses in the past, over the age of 45, the majority of people have increasing difficulty with near vision.

Drivers need to look from the road to the dashboard and then back quite often. They need to be able to focus on far distances, like checking the rear-view mirror or reading a distant traffic sign, and then focus back again on specific instruments inside the vehicle. Even seconds of a delay while near vision focusing delays reaction time and can cause car accidents.

Sensitivity to Glare

On the road, we are exposed to glare from all sorts of light sources— bright glare from the sun, the reflective glare from a traffic sign at night, or the unexpected glare from oncoming headlights. The aging cornea and lens in the eye become less clear as we age, causing light to scatter inside the eye, which increases our sensitivity to glare.

Being able to quickly recover and regain normal sight after being exposed to a very bright light is essential for safe driving. Unfortunately, glare recovery is at its peak in drivers under the age of 30. Combat glare by replacing windshield wipers every six months to keep your windshield clean and streak-free. This helps reduce the glare that becomes most prevalent at dusk and at night.

Car Accidents Can Happen At Any Age

Ultimately, you have to be able to see clearly in order to drive safely. However, car accidents can happen at any age. If you're ever injured in a car accident, it's critical to call us immediately before valuable evidence disappears. That's why we make it easy to contact us — our phones answer 24/7 or feel free to fill out our form online in the top right corner of this page.

Sources: “Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision.” Consumerhealthday.com. March 26, 2015.
“Safe Driving After Age 60.” Allaboutvision.com. March 26, 2015.
“Night Vision and Driving: How Safe Are Older Motorists?” Allaboutvision.com. March 26, 2015.
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