When is the Right Time to Stop Driving?

Researchers at the University of Western Australia have investigated at what point declining vision increases the risk of a car accident.

They found that specific types of defects in an older person’s field of vision are associated with an increased risk of car crashes.

Our ‘field of vision’ refers to how wide we can see when staring straight ahead. A wide field of vision allows us to see enough details on either side of a car while still paying attention to what is in front of us.

Driving tests that check our long-distance vision, won’t highlight defects in your visual field.

The University of Western Australia’s study is the first population-based investigation to compare a large-scale ophthalmic database of visual fields for older adults with police-reported crash, licensing and hospital morbidity data.

The researchers evaluated 29 years of data from more than 31,000 drivers in Western Australia aged 50 and older. Over 4,000 older drivers, accounting for 14% of older drivers in Western Australia, were involved in at least one car crash. More than half of those in a crash were experiencing some extent of visual field loss.

Why you need Good Driving Vision

Results suggest that the area of vision affected, and the severity of it contributed significantly to crash risk:

  • Visual field loss of any sort in both eyes increased the odds of a car crash by 84%.
  • Moderate visual field loss in one eye increased car crash risk only if it occurred in the left upper or lower quadrants.
  • Severe vision loss in any quadrant increased the chances of an accident.
  • Central vision loss in either eye was not associated with an increase in car crash incident.

“Many people think that only good visual acuity or clarity of vision is necessary for safe driving,” said lead researcher Dr Siobhan Manners. “We hope these results will help educate the public about the importance of having an adequate field of vision to be able to continue driving safely. We also hope to better inform clinicians, licensing authorities, and people with visual field defects of the thresholds for visual field loss that still allows for safe driving.”

Stay Safe on the Road with Vision Correction

Don’t rely on your old glasses or a driving vision test at your local Service NSW branch to determine how well you are seeing the world around you. Take the time to visit an eye specialist for a comprehensive examination that can identify vision loss as well as any present ocular disease that can be treated.

With 20 years of experience as an ophthalmic surgeon, I can recommend laser vision correction technologies to enhance your remaining field of vision and improve your visual acuity so that you can stay on the road for longer. You may even be able to dispense with your glasses or contact lenses.