With increasing age comes an inevitable decline in vision, a reality that presents challenges specifically for senior citizens, or those upwards of 60 years old. For those in this age bracket, and for their loved ones, there may be increasing concerns as to their safety when driving with eyes that are more prone to vision disturbances like blurry distance vision or light sensitivity. Dr. Brian Will, board-certified ophthalmologist and director and chief surgeon of Will Vision and Laser Centers, shares these safe driving tips for older adults.
Tip #1: Avoid Difficult Driving Times and Conditions
If you’re a senior who has vision-related concerns, you can sidestep a lot of the risk, not to mention stress, of driving by limiting your amount of time on the road. Driving at night, at high-traffic times or in inclement weather should be avoided as much as possible. This is particularly helpful as many older adults have problems with night vision, where limited visibility may cause them to miss traffic signs or other cars in their peripheral vision. Light sensitivity may also make it difficult to focus with the blinding headlights of oncoming traffic. Instead, try sticking to a late-morning or early-afternoon store run, and try to stick to stores close by that you can access by local roads instead of freeways.
Tip #2: Check Your Medications
Regardless of age, people who are on medications that slow their reactive time or alter their physical or mental mobility should avoid driving while under their influence. Pain and sleep medications, muscle relaxants and antihistamines in particular can affect your safety behind the wheel, regardless of if you notice their effects or not. Read the labels on all of the medications you are taking, including the over-the-counter variety, to make sure that there are no driving precautions.
Tip #3: Learn to Drive Defensively
Defensive driving is a skill that benefits all ages, but one that is especially useful as we get older and our vision dims and our reaction times get slower. Here are some defensive driving tips that will help:
- Before driving, make sure that your seat, steering wheel and mirrors are properly adjusted for you. Your chest should be at least 10 inches from the seat and your eyes should be at least three inches higher than the steering wheel.
- Leave a wide gap between you and the car you are following.
- Break early when approaching a stop sign or light.
- Check your mirrors frequently, particularly before changing lanes.
Tip #4: Take Care of Your Vision Needs
Yearly eye exams are recommended for all adults, but particularly for those in the senior age group, as this is the time where people are most affected by presbyopia, or age-related vision loss. By this time, even those who previously had no need for glasses are have to rely on reading glasses to see their computer or phone screen, or perform other tasks that require seeing up close. If you are an older adult and have problems seeing up close or in the distance, or both, why not research a vision correction surgery? LASIK surgery, especially the bladeless procedure offered at Will Vision and Laser Centers, can be performed in less than 20 minutes and result in clearer distance vision, though most people still require reading glasses. If you would like to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, your dependence on glasses or contacts, the versatile Life Style LASIK procedure offered by Dr. Will can provide 20/20 or better vision for both near and far distances.
If you’d like to learn more about the safe and effective vision correction procedures offered at Will Vision and Laser Centers, contact our office to schedule a complimentary LASIK evaluation. Call our Vancouver office at (877) 542-EYES (3937), our Beaverton office at (877) 542-3937 or our Salem office at (877) 542-3937.