As A Senior's Age Increases, Vision and Driving Ability May Decrease

By: Jody Smith

According to the American Optometric Association, though drivers over the age of 65 tend to do less driving than younger age groups, they are also responsible for the highest rate of automobile crashes per mile driven. In addition, these accidents are more liable to involve multiple cars, causing more serious injuries than accidents caused by younger drivers.

With about 88 percent of seniors driving their own cars, and the number of seniors increasing significantly for some years to come, there is more danger on the road than most of us care to admit. It's the physical and mental decline that can accompany aging that is responsible. It doesn't cause problems for all seniors, but those who are affected need to be realistic about it.

One of the physical declines that can come with age involves vision. The American Optometric Association said that "Age-related decreases in vision function have been found in visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, glare sensitivity, visual field, night vision, and color vision. Similarly, cognitive skills related to recognition and attention also decline with increasing age. Research has shown that reduction in the 'useful field of view'(UFOV)-the ability to detect, identify, and localize targets in a complex visual background-is age related."

In many cases, the senior is aware of their visual limitations and may have been acting on them of their own volition. Some older Americans will drive less than they used to, go for shorter drives, and avoid heavy traffic or driving at night, for example. Unfortunately, this self-regulating is not always enough.

The American Medical Association has said that senior drivers create a public health issue due to a decline in vision as well as in cognition and motor ability. Response time lags, while recognizing a possible danger on the road is slower or may not come at all.

AAA said that a driver can make up to 20 decisions for every mile driven, and has less than half a second to react effectively. This type of situation requires skills in sensing, deciding, and acting, AAA reported. And age can affect all three of these.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 15 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2005 involved the deaths of Americans over the age of 65 years. They expect this to rise as more Americans become seniors.

The CDC said that car accidents are the Number One cause of injury for those between 65 and 76 years of age, and the second most common cause of injury for people 75 and over.

Jody Smith is a freelance writer for Empowher.com

Sources:

Motorist Vision Policy

http://www.aoa.org/x5382.xml

Night Vision and Driving: How Safe Are Older Motorists?

http://www.allaboutvision.com/over40/night-driving.htm

Related Links:

Ways to Reduce Stress While Driving

http://www.empowher.com/mental-health/content/ways-reduce-stress-while-driving

The CDC's Winnable Battles in Public Health: Motor Vehicle Safety

http://www.empowher.com/prevention-centers/content/cdcs-winnable-battles-public-health-motor-vehicle-safety

Anxiety and Stress Can Hinder Driving Abilities

http://www.empowher.com/mental-health/content/anxiety-and-stress-can-hinder-driving-abilities

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