Keeping Your Eyes on the Road: When Eye Disease Starts Jeopardizing Your Driving

Eye disease affects more than just the clarity of your vision. It also affects your independence. Driving is one of the privileges we take for granted, but when diseases like macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma affect your ability to see clearly, driving may be too risky.

For someone with vision challenges, one of the most difficult decisions to make is the decision to stop driving. Some individuals with eye disease make this decision on their own, but more often than not, the responsibility falls upon spouses and children to bring up this difficult and touchy subject.

According to Caring.com and the National Safety Council, 36 percent of adult children said that talking to their parents about the need to stop driving would be harder than discussing funeral plans or selling their home (Source: The New Old Age).

The “car key conversation” is not always well-received because, if done correctly, it takes place before a car accident— not afterwards. But if you have never been in an accident, you probably don’t feel ready to give up the car keys! Just remember that, while you may still feel like “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” to other drivers, you may look more like “Driving with Your Eyes Closed.”

If you are not sure whether you should be driving or not, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have difficulty driving at night?
  • Do I sometimes struggle to read street signs, traffic lights and highway signs?
  • Do I get confused, turned around or agitated while driving?
  • Am I bothered by glares or “halos” around lights, especially at night?
  • Do I often drive above or below the normal speed of traffic?

Degenerative eye disease develops slowly, so you might not realize the gradual changes in your vision. It is imperative to get yearly check-ups with your eye doctor. The best way to know whether you should get “on the road again” or have a designated driver is to schedule a comprehensive eye exam. You can ask for your eye doctor’s recommendation on a change in prescription, a new medication or maybe a surgical procedure or device that may preserve or improve your vision.

You may be able to keep your driver’s license, but your doctor may suggest restricting your driving to daylight hours and leave nighttime driving to a friend or family member. Routine comprehensive eye exams are the best way to keep you, and other drivers, safe on the road.

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