Perspective Newsletter
Spring 2015
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See your way clear to safer driving

man entering car

As we age, natural changes in our vision can make driving a little trickier. Dials on the instrument panel may not appear as clear as they once were. Oncoming headlights can seem blinding at night. And street signs may sneak up on you.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) reports that the amount of light drivers need to see well at night doubles roughly every 13 years. AAA estimates a 45-year-old requires four times as much light as a 19-year-old. A 60-year-old requires 10 times as much.

What's more, as eyes age, pupils shrink and eye muscles lose elasticity, making older drivers much more sensitive to glare. A 55-year-old takes eight times longer than a 16-year-old to recover from glare.

The good news is, there's a lot you can do to compensate for some of those changes. These six safety tips, courtesy of the American Optometric Association, National Institute on Aging, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and AAA, can help:

  • Get your eyes checked every year. Not only will that ensure your prescription is up to date, your eye doctor can catch early signs of a developing eye health problem before you even notice symptoms.
  • When choosing eyewear, avoid styles with wide side arms at the temples that can block peripheral vision.
  • Take extra care at intersections. Failure-to-yield accidents are among the most common collisions involving mature drivers. If your peripheral vision isn't what it used to be, make it a habit to turn your head for a good look, especially when taking a left turn.
  • Prioritize visibility features when choosing a car. Height-adjustable seats, telescoping steering wheels, narrow roof pillars (that don't block your view), and a highly legible instrument panel (easy-to-read symbols and a good dashboard dimmer) boost your margin of safety. Some cars offer light-sensitive mirrors that adjust to conditions and reduce glare.
  • Clean the inside of windows regularly to remove glare-amplifying film. Make sure headlights are free of road grime so you're getting as much light on the road as possible.
  • Stick to well-lighted, familiar routes after dark. Allow extra time so you're not tempted to push your speed. And, if possible, consider nixing nighttime trips in bad weather. Overcast skies cut down on whatever natural light is available. Rain intensifies the glare from oncoming cars and increases your stopping distance.