Millions May Be Driving With Uncorrected Visual Impairments
Uncorrected Visual Impairments
With Thanksgiving a week away, an estimated 30 million travelers will hit the roads to spend time with family and friends. Among those behind the wheel will be some of the 11 million Americans with uncorrected vision problems.
Depending upon where those drivers live, their last DMV-required vision screening could have been eighteen years ago and some may never have had one at all, according to a report by the Vision Council of America (VCA).
While most states have consistent laws on seat belt safety, helmet use and speeding, there is no consistency with vision screenings among states. This Thanksgiving, VCA has set out to educate drivers about the important link between healthy vision and safe driving.
"Our already crowded roads are made that much more dangerous by drivers with uncorrected vision problems getting behind the wheel," said Ed Greene, VCA chief executive officer. "Since 85 percent of the information needed for safe driving is visual, regular eye exams are an important part of driver safety."
While the VCA report, "Keeping Our Eyes on the Road," reviewed vision screening laws across the country, further analysis by VCA finds that standards for vision screenings contrast starkly with strict state laws regarding drunk driving, speeding, seatbelt, child restraint and helmet use by motorcyclists.
"We rely on our eyes every time we step into a car; especially our peripheral vision, depth perception and focusing skills," said Greene. "This link between vision and driving makes it essential for motorists to take steps to maintain healthy vision, just as they take other safety precautions on the road."
Current state laws place a high priority on the safety of drivers and passengers:
-- Forty-eight states have the .08 Blood Alcohol Content Law to prevent drunk driving.
-- Twenty-two states have Primary Safety Belt Use Laws (law enforcement officers may issue a citation any time they observe an unbelted driver or passenger); and 29 states have Secondary Safety Belt Use Laws (law enforcement officers may issue a safety belt citation only if the officer has stopped the vehicle for some other reason).
-- All 50 states and D.C. require use of child safety seats for children three years of age and younger.
-- All 50 states and D.C. sanction drivers who exceed posted speed limits, drive in a reckless manner and race on the highways.
-- Forty-six states have laws that require motorcyclists in specific age or ability categories to wear helmets.
Measures to ensure healthy vision, however, are inconsistent throughout the nation. While some states require vision screenings every time drivers renew their licenses, other drivers can wait as long as 18 years before they are required to have their eyes re-checked. Nine states do not require vision screening at all upon license renewal. In the absence of standards for vision screenings, drivers have to be especially aware of their own responsibility to maintain good vision.
"People often don't notice gradual changes in their vision which, over time, can impede their ability to drive safely," said ophthalmologist Elaine G. Hathaway, M.D. "Checking your eyes is important not only to determine proper vision correction, but also to detect cataracts and sight-threatening diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration so they can be properly treated."
With regular vision care, drivers can prevent poor sight from putting themselves and their loved ones at risk on the road. Regardless of what your state requires, VCA recommends that drivers receive regular comprehensive eye exams by an eyecare professional to maintain healthy vision.
To reduce the dangers of driving, VCA suggests the following tips to help drivers stay safe on the roads:
-- Take breaks when driving long distances to reduce eye strain and fatigue.
-- Use sunglasses with at least 99 percent UV protection when appropriate.
-- Investigate anti-reflective or polarized lenses to allow more light to enter the eye and to minimize glare.
-- Keep headlights, taillights and windshield (both inside and outside) clean.
-- Receive regular eye exams by an eyecare professional to ensure that your eyes stay healthy and your prescription remains current.