We’re not going to be hyper-literal here and explain why vision is required for driving…that part should be self-explanatory. Rather, we’re going to help you understand why good vision helps you read signs, identify road hazards and interpret vital information on your vehicle’s dashboard such as speed, fuel level and any warning alarms. The bottom line is this: Awareness of common eye care related problems and changes can help you and your loved ones stay safe while on the road.
Part One: The Visual Functioning Necessary for Driving
Among the most important factors when it comes to safe driving are a field of vision (visual field) and visual acuity. Because vision regulations vary depending on the state, it’s vital to confirm local laws to discover what your particular requirements are.
Visual acuity refers to your clarity of vision, gauged by reading letters on an eye chart. This test reports whether you will require contacts or glasses, or if your current prescription by your eye doctor is in need of an upgrade. Your visual field, meanwhile, refers to how wide an area is perceived by your eye when focusing on a central point. Three distinct types of visual field tests exist, with the one most commonly administered in the U.S. being the automated perimetry, in which flashing lights in a device are detected.
Color vision also helps identify brake lights and traffic signals, while contrast sensitivity helps drivers see pedestrians, road signs and lights in inclement weather and at night.
Part Two: How Driving is Affected by Common Vision Changes
As we age, normal eye care changes occur that affect our vision and the ability to drive safely. These include presbyopia, a condition that could possibly impact your sensing of the navigation system or dashboard, and dry eye, which can reduce nighttime vision quality. Other conditions that can affect vision when driving:
- Glaucoma – This disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve often comes with no obvious symptoms or warning signs in the early stages. As it progresses, blind spots develop in the peripheral vision or, as is less-common, in the central vision.
- Diabetic Retinopathy – A disease in which high blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, robbing both peripheral and central vision.
- Cataracts – This progressive clouding of the natural lens inside the eye causes glare and halos around lights as well as blurry vision, making it harder to see accurately once night falls, in inclement weather conditions or during low-light situations.
- Macular Degeneration – Here, a part of the retina known as the macula becomes damaged, resulting in central vision loss.
Summing it Up
Routine eye exams can assist your ophthalmologist in detecting these aforementioned changes before they progress too far, so that they may be treated promptly with the goal of avoiding irreversible loss of vision. Regardless of your age, however, should you notice symptoms such as a decrease in vision or blurry vision, glare or halos when looking at oncoming headlights or a dark spot in your central or peripheral vision, make an appointment with a Matossian Eye Associates eye doctor right away, (800) 708-8800 or click here to schedule online.