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Elderly Drivers vs. Safe Drivers: Can They Be One And The Same?

"I can see just fine when I drive" "I don't want my license to say I need glasses to drive" "I only drive to the grocery store. It's ok, I know my way." "I don't drive at night anymore because I get confused." "I passed my eye test at DMV. The girl there let me keep guessing 'til I got it right." These statements are just a few examples of comments I hear from my patients on a daily basis. Scary, I know, but telling an elderly person they are no longer legal to drive under the state's Division of Motor Vehicles guidelines, is never an easy conversation to have. You would probably be shocked at how lax some states regulations are. Different states define "legal vision" in different ways. In New York State, where I live, legal driving vision requires that a person must have at least 20/40 best-corrected vision in one eye to be able to drive. Unbelievably, only 9 of the 50 states require a vision test upon renewal! New Hampshire and Illinois are the only 2 states that require drivers over the age of 75 to take a vision AND road test upon renewal. Maine, on the other hand, actually requires a road test at renewals beginning at age 40. I often have to tell patients they have fallen below legal driving limits, but this does not necessarily mean they can no longer drive or have to have their license revoked for good. Bringing them back to legal driving limits ¬†may be something as simple as an adjustment to their eyeglass prescription, or possibly the time has come for cataract surgery. If you have an elderly parent, grandparent or loved one on the road, take a drive with them every so often. While doing so, make careful observations on how they appear to be seeing. If you notice a struggle or a decline, encourage them to see their doctor for an eye exam - ¬†for the safety of everyone out there on the road.* Click here to take my 6-Question survey about vision and driving. here to take survey Mary Sweetman Certified Ophthalmic Assistant ==== "The issue of good driving vision is not only a legal one. There are also ethical and emotional issues. Elderly drivers who have experienced a decline that makes them unsafe on the road staunchly defend their ability. Yet the same person would be upset if another driver with similar skills were a danger to a grandchild. If a driver is legally blind, there currently are no requirements, and in New York State there are no protections for physicians to report this information. Patients vigorously defend their right to drive because losing that ability means losing independence."               [caption id="attachment_2404" align="alignnone" width="100"] Dr. Paul Krawitz, President and Founder, VisiVite.com[/caption]    

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