Everyone has a “blind spot” while driving – but combined with visual impairments, driving is a daily activity that can put us in danger. As more and more people develop vision problems, driving poses an increasing risk to not only those drivers, but also to everyone else on the road.
A study from the Netherlands indicates that impaired visual functions, including limited visual acuity, reduced field of vision, color blindness, reduced contrast sensitivity (depth perception), increased glare sensitivity and night-blindness, significantly influence driving behavior. Similarly, a report showed the number of drivers in the UK who have had their driver’s license revoked due to failing eyesight doubled from 2006 to 2011. Numerous visual impairments develop as people age, but since this progression is over a long period of time, people don’t always understand their eyesight could be impeding their ability to drive.
Still, it’s widely understood that in driving – a vision-based activity – visual health of the driver should be considered fundamental. Countries around the world have acknowledged this, but the varying standards do not give priority to its importance. The Netherlands considered, at one point, introducing an obligatory eye exam for car drivers over the age of 45. The American Optometric Association pointed out that while some states do require vision screening for driver’s license renewal, there is no standardized age at which that is required – and it’s not a requirement in all states. A 2016 study noted that in India, field of vision and color blindness tests are not part of the vision requirement standards for safe driving.
So, what can we do? The goal is two-fold.
First, we must continue to increase awareness of the benefits of the comprehensive eye exam. When drivers have an annual eye exam, they become aware of any changes to their vision and can take the appropriate steps to mitigate impairments. This specific action could result in a reduction in the overall loss due to traffic accidents, including loss of life. After all, 90% of the information from the driving environment is received by the eyes alone.
Second, join us in advocating to community leaders the need to establish standards for vision testing of drivers. Together, we can improve the safety of our roads around the world – and continue Giving Vision a Voice.