An Eye for Driving After 65

Eye doctors lead in ensuring seniors can drive safely

(RxWiki News) As parents and grandparents age, inevitably questions arise about their vision and their ability to remain safe on the road. Many vision care providers take the lead, helping to avoid an awkward conversation with a family member.

Drivers over the age of 65 are considered the fastest growing driving population. Ophthalmologists and optometrists are increasingly taking the lead in helping to determine whether patients can continue to drive safely.

"Consult an eye doctor about driving safely after 65."

David C. Musch, a researcher with the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, surveyed 500 Michigan vision care providers about assessing the driving abilities of senior patients.

Researchers found that most eye care providers believe it is their responsibility to question patients over the age of 65 about driving and said that they do it regularly. However, many fail to ask about other factors such as medications and health conditions that could affect their ability to drive.

About 87 percent of doctors asked about driving at night, reading traffic signs and glare, but only 8 percent asked about challenging driving situations or a patient's driving record.

At 81 percent, most eye doctors said that certain resources, including driving assessment guidelines, clinical screening tools and a patient self-evaluation tool would help them assess the driving capabilities of seniors. It also could help address higher accident rates for older drivers.

Musch said that overall he found that vision care physicians want to assist patients. Research has shown that drivers over the age of 65 who lose their ability to drive have higher rates of depression and remain more socially isolated. They also have more limited access to health care services and are more likely to need long-term care.

He said that the goal is to intervene and modify driving habits of older drivers, which would allow them to maintain their independence.

Though most eye doctors are confident in determining whether a patient's eye sight is suitable for safe driving, the majority don't think they are the best professional to identify unsafe drivers. Only 8 percent said that they talk to a patient's primary care doctor about driving concerns or refer patients to driving school. Some of their concerns included a negative impact on their relationship with the patient, liability issues, confidentially and a patient's quality of life.

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Review Date: 
August 25, 2011