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With Winter Here, Take Extra Care On The Road

With the winter season upon us, the days are shorter and the roads more dangerous. According to the National Safety Council, the risk of a fatal crash is three times greater at night.

While snow and ice demand careful driving, it’s equally important to consider night vision problems that can be more pronounced during winter.

This is especially true for older drivers. According to the American Optometric Association, a 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old. At age 60, driving can become even more difficult.

Depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision can all be compromised at night. Even with high-beam lights, visibility is limited to 500 feet (250 feet for normal headlights,) giving drivers less time to react. Headlight glare from oncoming vehicles can also temporarily blind drivers. Individuals with cataracts have a particularly difficult time with glare from headlights, making night driving very difficult to impossible.

The most important factors for safe driving are visual acuity and field of vision. Visual acuity is the sharpness of your vision, measured by the ability to discern letters or numbers at a given distance according to a fixed standard. Visual field is how wide of an area your eye can see when focusing on a central point. Additionally, color vision helps to identify traffic signals and brake lights. Contrast sensitivity aids in identifying pedestrians, lights and road signs.

There are a myriad of eye conditions and diseases that affect night driving, including the need for glasses, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.

In states where periodic mandatory vision screening is required of senior drivers, most cases of potential loss of license due to poor vision are due to the need for glasses or a change in existing glasses. New Jersey, unfortunately, is not one of those states.

Nonetheless, it is important to have regular eye exams with your eyecare provider to detect and treat problems that impact nighttime vision.

February 4, 2019