Health

The Aging Eye and Driving

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Head ShotBBy Kevin A. Rogers, OD, Rogers Regional Eye Center

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. Additionally, our reaction times slow, adding motor complications to the visual ones. Dry eyes also become 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. 
The biggest driving distraction in our day and age is cell phone usage. While many states have created laws which forbid driving and texting, 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. 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. 
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