Millions May Be Driving with Uncorrected Visual Impairments

Regular Eye Exams are Vital for Driver Safety

11 million Americans with could be driving with uncorrected vision problems. Depending on where those drivers live, their last DMV-required vision screening could have been eighteen years ago; some may never have had one at all, according to a report by the Vision Council of America (VCA). 

“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.”

The VCA report “Keeping Our Eyes on the Road,” reviewed vision screening laws and found them to be inconsistent. While some states require vision screenings every time drivers renew their licenses, other drivers may go as long as 18 years before they are required to have their vision re-checked. Nine states require no vision screening at all for license renewal. In the absence of standards for vision screenings, drivers must be responsible for maintaining good vision.

“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.”

“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.”

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 eye care professional to ensure that your eyes stay healthy and your prescription remains current

Regardless of what your state requires, VCA recommends that drivers receive a regular comprehensive eye exam by an eye care professional to maintain healthy vision.  With regular vision care, drivers can prevent poor sight from putting themselves and their loved ones at risk on the road.

SOURCE:  Vision Council of America, Keeping Our Eyes on the Road, November 19, 2007.