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Elderly Driver

Driving Safely and Confidently


The Greatest Source of Information for Driving

A skilled motorist moves on city streets, highways and country roads, proceeding cautiously and making decisions on his drive based the information he collects, that informs how he will handle each leg of the trip. By far, most of the information that he requires comes from his eyesight. In fact, ninety percent of the decisions a driver makes while driving are based on information gathered through the eyes.

Typical Visual Cues Comprising a Visual Survey

Among the many visual cues that a person surveys while driving, these are quite common and may elicit responses such as slowing down, watching out for workman, staying on one side of the road, determining if the automobile should be handled differently or if another route should be taken:

  • Road Signs provide directions, inform concerning upcoming road conditions and road changes
  • Visible road conditions, such as construction and road surfaces
  • Weather conditions, such as rain, fog, snow, ice, storm, flooding or strong winds
  • Illumination, especially at dusk  or at night time, as well lighting from on-coming traffic
  • Traffic conditions, such as congestion, speeding, aggressive drivers and accidents
  • Accidents – sudden; already existing
  • Pedestrians – erratic, impulsive, distracted, impaired
  • Other drivers – erratic, aggressive, impulsive, impaired, distracted
  • Steam/Smoke from under hood indicating possible fire, or oil leak
  • Auto indicator lights for brakes, oil, engine, etc.

Number of Cues and speed Can Adversely Affect Your Survey

Absorbing these cues is complicated by the fact that there may be several of them that demand our attention simultaneously. Furthermore, the speed at which one is driving can make it more difficult to absorb the visual information in a manner that is optimal for safe and effective driving.

Ageing and Eyesight

Regrettably for the elderly driver, adverse changes in eyesight can be a normal part of ageing. The elderly driver may notice that it becomes more difficult to read small print and he may also find it harder to see fine detail and objects against low contrast backgrounds. It may take him longer to adjust from light to darkness. His eyes become more sensitive to light. Peripheral or side vision may narrow and it may become more difficult for him to judge distances. At night, an older driver’s vision becomes worse.

So, it is crucial that he be aware of visual limitations. Then he may have his vision corrected, or he may elect to adapt his driving and drive safely, longer.

Types of Eyesight Deterioration Affecting Our Driving

Many eye conditions can limit, or even prohibit driving. The following are common and may often lead to curtailment of driving.

  • Cataracts (blurry, glare)
  • Glaucoma (halo effect, tunnel vision)
  • Macular Degeneration (loss of central vision)
  • Diabetic Retinopathy (blind spots)
  • Presbyopia (inability to focus near)
  • Low Vision

When Should You Be Concerned About Your Vision

As we age our eyes are bound to be affected. How much? To what extent? It all depends on individual factors unique to each driver. You might answer the question of when you should begin to be concerned by evaluating yourself against the following questions:

  • Do I have difficulty reading road signs or recognizing someone familiar from a distance?
  • Do I find that it takes longer to adjust from light to darkness?
  • Do colours become harder to see?
  • Do I have difficulty seeing signs, lane lines, curbs, other traffic and pedestrians?
  • Is this worse at dawn, dusk and at night?
  • Do I find the glare from lights at night a problem?
  • Do I have difficulty judging the speed of cars coming from the opposite direction?
  • Do I have difficulty seeing cars, and pedestrians on or beside the road?

What to Do About these Tell-Tale Signs

Among the things you can do when your vision is experiencing deterioration, the following are quite common:

  • Have your eyes checked, annually. If you suffer from ailments like diabetes you may have to check often.
  • Wear your glasses (current prescription).
  • Travel only in low risk areas and conditions such as: familiar routes, quiet times of the day, lower speed areas, daytime and good weather conditions
  • Avoid very dark windshields. Keep glass, mirrors and headlights clean.
  • Turn up the brightness of the instrument panel.
  • Sit high enough in your seat so you can see the road within 10 feet in front of your car. This helps reduce glare from opposing headlights at night.
  • Look to the lower right side of the road when there is oncoming traffic at night. This will also reduce the glare from headlights. If in the UK, Japan, Australia, do the same by looking to the lower left hand side of the road.
  • Be alert for pedestrians or cyclists. They may not see you. If they do not wear light or reflective clothing, you may not see them



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