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Aging Eyes and Driving Safety 

Even if you don’t have any eye or vision problems, the natural process of aging affects your ability to see and react to visual stimuli. It’s important to know the impact the aging can have on your eyes and vision so you can take the necessary precautions to stay safe and protect your eyes.

Driving is one activity that can pose a high risk as safe driving requires not only good vision, but also intact cognition and motor response. As we age, reflexes, reaction time and vision begin to deteriorate, which can impair one’s ability to drive safely, particularly under conditions such as bad weather, twilight glare, or nighttime darkness. Here are some ways that your ability to drive can be impaired as you age and some safety tips to help you to stay safe on the roads.

The Aging Eye

As we age, the eye and vision naturally begin to experience a decline. The pupils in the eye, which allow light to enter, begin to shrink and dilate less, allowing less light to enter the retina. This causes reduced night vision. Additionally, some of our peripheral vision diminishes along with our ability to see moving objects.

Due to deterioration of the cornea and clouding of the lens of the eye, glare becomes more disruptive and contrast sensitivity is reduced, making it harder to perceive images clearly. General imperfections in vision called higher-order aberrations cause a general decline in vision that can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Additionally, our reaction times slow, adding motor complications to the visual ones. Dry eyes also becomes a bigger problem with age as the lacrimal glands don’t produce as many tears to keep the eyes moist. Many of these symptoms may be present without the individual even noticing a decline and can all contribute to increased risk - for the driver, and others on the road.

If you add in any other vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration which are age-related diseases that gradually reduce vision, you can have a serious danger on your hands.

Avoid Distractions

The biggest driving distraction in our day and age is cell phone usage. While many states and provinces have created laws which forbid driving and texting or holding a phone, it is not universal, and this still causes countless accidents and deaths that could be easily avoided. Even hands-free options distract you from the road and put you at risk. If you must use your phone to speak, dial or text, pull over first.

Plan Ahead

If you can avoid driving at night or on hazardous roads with sharp turns, inadequate lighting or that are unfamiliar to you, you will be better off. Plan to make first time trips during the day when you can clearly see street signs and landmarks or take a practice trip with a loved one.

Purchase Night Vision Glasses

There are glasses available that can help to reduce the glare at night and enable better night time vision. Speak to your optometrist about whether this is a good option for you.

Turn Vents Down

Car vents can also cause discomfort, eye irritation and create greater vision hazard, as the air blowing at the eyes can impair vision or cause watering, especially when the eye are already dry.

Maintain Good Eye Health

Make sure that you get your eyes checked on a regular basis and that any eye conditions you have are being treated and monitored. Good nutrition, exercise and overall healthy habits will help to protect and heal your eyes as well. Further, listen to your instincts, if you feel unsafe driving or if your doctor (or family members) tell you it’s time to hand in the keys, think about utilizing other means of transportation to get around.

Many times people are able to pass their vision test at the driver’s license bureau which gives them a false sense of security, but in reality they are not seeing well, especially at night or in bad weather. In many areas there are courses available for senior citizens to test out driving skills with instructors who do an evaluation and give feedback on their real abilities. It’s critical for seniors to speak to their eye doctors about their true vision level and any restrictions that they recommend.

The key to eye health and safety is awareness. You can’t stop your eyes from aging but you can take the necessary precautions to ensure that you are protecting your eyes, yourself and those around you by knowing how your eyes and vision are affected.

SOUTH COAST OPTOMETRY UPDATE – JULY 1, 2020

COVID-19 has been and continues to be an ongoing trial for all of us. During this unforeseen time, we ask kindly for your understanding and compliance to the CDC guidelines. In order to decrease the chances of contraction, we are allowing only one parent to accompany their child during the examination. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

We also want to inform you of the new additional symptoms of COVID-19 that have been added to the previous symptoms as potential indicators of having COVID-19:

New symptoms:             Congestion/runny nose
                                           Nausea
                                           Diarrhea

Previous symptoms:       Headache
                                            Fever/chills
                                            Dry cough
                                            Shortness of breath
                                            Fatigue
                                            Sore throat
                                            Muscle/body aches
                                            New loss of taste or smell

Please be aware that a person does not have to have all of these symptoms but anyone or multiple symptoms can be an indicator of having COVID-19. If you or any family members are experiencing any of the above symptoms, we kindly ask that you reschedule your appointment and contact your primary care provider. It is best to reschedule your appointment with us after being symptom-free for 14 days.

We at South Coast Optometry truly appreciate each and every one of you as a person and value your trust in us to take care of your most precious eyes. As always, we will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and communicate any and all changes through our website,
www.SouthCoastOptometry.com. Again, we truly appreciate your understanding and support during this unprecedented time and look forward to seeing everyone soon!

Sincerely,

Dr. Daniel E. Quon, O.D., and The Entire South Coast Optometry Team!!!