Age and nighttime driving vision

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 5-Aug-2013

nightdrivingsmAccording to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, our ability to see stationary and moving objects while driving, as well as our ability to resist glare and see reflective signs and roadway markings decreases with age. Vision changes that come with age affect not only our safety, but also the safety of other drivers and passengers on the road. With decreasing vision, nighttime driving becomes especially difficult.

As we age, pupils don’t dilate as much in the dark as they do in younger eyes. This reduces the amount of light entering the eye and can make an older driver feel as though he or she is wearing sunglasses at night.

The cornea also becomes less clear with age, increasing glare. Cloudiness in the cornea also reduces contrast sensitivity, which can make it difficult to discern subtle differences and make it hard to see objects on the roads at night.

In addition to these natural changes in vision due to age, there are a few other conditions that may affect your nighttime driving vision. These include:

  • Presbyopia -- Vision naturally declines with age. Presbyopia develops with age and can make focusing and adjusting to light changes more difficult. It may also make driving at night or in the rain more challenging for older adults.
  • Glaucoma -- Glaucoma is a buildup of pressure in the eye that can affect peripheral vision. Without peripheral vision, it is difficult to see what is going on around you while driving.
  • Cataracts -- Cataracts is a clouding of the lens of the eye, which blurs the field of vision, making it difficult to see objects clearly. Cataracts may further inhibit nighttime driving vision.
  • Diabetic retinopathy -- A condition in the back of the eye, caused by diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy can cause a significant loss of vision and is the leading cause of retinal blindness in adults ages 20-64.

If you are an older driver, take these steps to keep yourself and others safe on the roads:

  • Have regular eye exams. Notify your eye doctor if you notice any problems seeing or difficulty driving, especially at night. Your doctor may test your visual field and contrast sensitivity.
  • Request prescription eyeglasses to help you see better at night. Anti-reflective coatings on eyeglass lenses will reduce glare.
  • Consider cataract surgery if you have been diagnosed with cataracts. The clouded natural lens of the eye will be replaced with a clear, intraocular lens. The artificial lens will provide better contrast sensitivity and clearer, crisper vision that traditional prescription lenses.

If you struggle to see while driving at night, plan your schedule to avoid driving at night when possible. Drive only on familiar, well-lit roads. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination, especially if driving at night or in adverse conditions. Keep windows clean and clear to avoid vision interference. It may also be wise to consider testing your skills with a driving class. As an added bonus, your car insurance company may even lower your premium.

If you have difficulty seeing while you drive at night, contact the doctors at Key-Whitman for a comprehensive eye exam to test for any eye conditions that may be affecting your vision.

Categories: Eye Health
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