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Eyes on the road: Maintaining vision requirements as you age

Eyes on the road: Maintaining vision requirements as you age

Maybe you haven’t given much thought to how taking care of your eyes can keep you on the road, but you should. Like all provinces, Alberta has specific vision requirements for acquiring a driver’s licence. Maintaining healthy vision is essential when getting your licence for the first time, but it can also be particularly important for older individuals who are experiencing changes in their vision. 

The natural process of aging can bring about changes in our eyes that impact our ability to see well, especially while driving. In this blog, we’ll explore how aging can affect your vision and driving abilities, and how optometric care can play a critical role in ensuring clear vision on the road. 

Visual acuity standards

Visual acuity refers to the sharpness and clarity of your vision as a measure of how well you can see fine details at a specific distance. It’s a critical aspect of your overall visual function and is typically measured using an eye chart during an eye exam. 

Visual acuity is represented by a fraction, with the numerator (top number) indicating the distance at which you are standing from the eye chart, and the denominator (bottom number) representing the distance at which a person with normal vision can read the same line. For example, if your visual acuity is measured as 20/20, it means that you can see at 20 feet what a person with normal vision can see at 20 feet. 

Visual acuity is an essential factor in determining your eligibility for certain tasks, including obtaining a driver’s licence, since it directly impacts your ability to see road signs, pedestrians, and other vehicles clearly while driving. Drivers in Alberta must meet specific visual acuity standards, which you can find here. Medical fitness reviews are also required beginning at age 75.

It’s important to see your optometrist regularly to monitor and maintain visual acuity, which may change as we age. Optometrists can assess your visual acuity, identify any changes or concerns, and provide appropriate recommendations and interventions, like prescription eyeglasses or treatment for eye conditions, to help maintain clear and sharp vision.

Visual field standards 

Visual field is another important factor in safe driving. The visual field refers to the entire area that you can see while focusing on a central point. It includes both central vision, which is what you see directly in front of you, and peripheral vision, which is what you see on the sides while looking straight ahead.

Visual field requirements ensure that drivers have adequate peripheral vision to detect and respond to potential hazards, like pedestrians and other vehicles. Having a wide visual field helps drivers be aware of their surroundings and make informed decisions while driving.

As we age, our visual field can be impacted by a number of factors. Our peripheral vision may become limited, and conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration can affect the clarity and functioning of your visual field. By identifying these changes early, your optometrist can provide appropriate interventions and treatments to preserve and protect your visual function and overall eye health.

Corrective eyewear

To meet visual acuity standards, you might require corrective eyewear such as glasses or contact lenses while driving. Regular optometry care is essential to identify any changes in your vision that require an adjustment to your prescription for corrective eyewear. 

Additionally, presbyopia is increasingly common as we age. This condition affects your eye’s ability to focus on near objects, and could impact your ability to see things like your dashboard or navigation system. Bifocals, or prescriptive lenses that correct your vision both at a distance and close range, might be an appropriate solution if you’re experiencing advanced presbyopia along with refractive errors that require corrective eyewear.

Other age-related vision issues

Dry eyes are another common age-related condition. Reduced tear production can cause discomfort, irritation, and blurred vision, particularly when focusing on visual tasks for an extended period. If you’re experiencing dry eye symptoms while driving, talk to your optometrist about available treatments. 

Other changes in your vision could include finding it harder to adjust to varying levels of light, or experiencing reduced sensitivity to colour contrast. These and other natural symptoms of aging may impact your ability to drive safely, so booking regular optometry care is essential to preserve optimal vision for driving.

Optometry care can help you maintain your independence

Keeping your driver’s licence as you age is critical to maintain independence. Driving allows you to move and travel freely, so you can run errands, visit family, and participate in all of your favourite activities. You’ll be able to continue to access essential services conveniently and on your own schedule, attending medical appointments or shopping for groceries independently. Maintaining an active social life by driving to social gatherings and staying connected with family and friends can also enhance your overall quality of life and support good mental health.

Don’t let changes in your vision impact your ability to drive safely. At Dr. Sam Dhaliwal & Associates, we provide comprehensive vision care in Alberta for patients of all ages. If you’re beginning to notice changes in your vision associated with aging, optometric care can ensure that any concerns are identified early, and enable us to recommend appropriate intervention or treatment.

Your driver’s licence is your ticket to preserving independence, mobility, and your social connections. We recommend that all drivers, regardless of age, schedule regular comprehensive eye exams to monitor their vision health and detect any changes. Yearly exams may even be recommended by your insurance company. Find out how we can help you protect your vision so you can continue to drive safely, with comprehensive optometric care for seniors.