Most of the information we use when driving comes to us through the eyes, like the roads we travel on, road signs, pedestrians and other vehicles. Our eyes control most of our movements and decisions while driving. All drivers must ensure that their eyes receive good care and attention, and poor eyesight becomes a safety hazard to yourself and other road users.
Even for drivers with 20/20 vision, navigating the roads can be challenging. That challenge becomes even more significant is when your eyesight is poor, which can potentially reduce reaction time and lead to a car accident.
Improve reaction time
Good eyesight can improve reaction time — the amount of time it takes to respond to various circumstances, such as a vehicle ahead of you that makes a sudden stop.
Good vision helps you identify road hazards, read signs and see your dashboard. For instance, a driver with poor eyesight might react slowly to a stop sign or an object blocking a roadway, and this can put a driver, passengers, other motorists and pedestrians in harm’s way.
- Visual acuity, which determines how clearly you can see. Clarity of vision is measured when an optometrist asks you to read letters from an eye chart. Problems with visual acuity might lead to a heightened risk of auto accidents.
- Visual field is how wide an area your eyes can detect when you concentrate on one point. One way to test this is by watching flashing lights in a specialised eye care device.
Conditions that might cause poor vision include:
- Myopia, or short-sightedness, a refraction error that can make it hard for a driver to read signs, perceive hazards, and see other road users and objects clearly from far away.
- Presbyopia, or age-related long-sightedness, is a condition that makes it difficult to see objects up-close, such as the map app on your smartphone and the electronics on your dashboard.
- Macular degeneration, an incurable disease, and the leading cause of vision loss in older individuals.
- Glaucoma, a condition that damages the optic nerve of the eye. Glaucoma typically narrows the field of vision (weakening a person’s peripheral vision) and may cause blindness.
- Diabetic retinopathy, a condition that affects people with diabetes and can lead to vision loss or even blindness. The disease harms both central and peripheral vision.
- Cataracts, which cloud the natural lens inside the eye, and can result in blurred vision, dulled colours and increased light sensitivity.
- Dry eye, which can be caused by computer use, contact lens wear, allergies, air conditioning or medications, to name a few. Dry eye can lead to blurred vision, itchiness and eye fatigue, any of which can impair your vision, especially at night.
- Blurred eyesight, which can be caused by drowsiness or dizziness associated with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
There’s no way around it: You need to have regular eye examination to determine if your vision is fit for driving. This examination detects conditions that can affect your vision and possibly your reaction time on the road. While technology in vehicles has come a long way — going so far as to anticipate and react to drivers’ poor judgement — it is not a replacement for clear vision.
The good news: According to the World Health Organization, 80% of all visual impairments can be prevented, corrected or cured. So, whether you prefer to drive, bike or walk, seeing your optometrist for regular eye exams has the potential to keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear, making the roads safer for everyone.