Driving risk: Study finds eyes have it
By EMMA O'NEILL
WHILE most drivers regularly check their car's oil and water, some older drivers are neglecting something just as important: Their eyes.
Recent research has found the risk of a car crash increased when older drivers had undiagnosed vision impairment or were driving at night.
The 2007 study found while poor visibility at night affected all drivers, it had a particular effect on drivers over 40.
According to Ballina and Byron Bay optometrist Chris Doe, people were often unaware that their eyes were deteriorating with age, or that they were developing an eye disease.
"Drivers need to remember that, as they get older, their eyes slowly change, leading to reduced sensitivity to light, an increase in sensitivity to glare, and a reduced visual field," Mr Doe said.
"Add to this the possibility of having an eye condition or disease such as glaucoma or cataracts, which most people don't recognise until they suffer significant visual impairment, and the risk of a crash becomes alarmingly high."
It is estimated that around 150,000 Australians had undiagnosed glaucoma. More people were using magnifying glasses from the chemist while avoiding the optometrist, according to Mr Doe.
A 2002 report found undiagnosed glaucoma sufferers were 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a car crash, while drivers with cataracts were 2.5 times more likely.
While some older drivers have perfect vision, Mr Doe encouraged everyone to have regular eye examinations once they pass 40.
"If everyone had regular eye tests we could pick out those drivers who are not aware of their deteriorated vision."