Eye care providers need more tools for senior drivers

Alan Wu

August 29, 2011

A new study from the University of Michigan has found that eye care providers who routinely see senior patients should make a habit to inspect whether eyesight could prove to be a problem on the road. Approximately 87 percent said that they usually asked older patients whether driving at night, reading signs or the glare from the sun were obstacles.

However, this only covers some of the issues that seniors could face when they are behind the wheel. In addition to impaired vision, slower reflexes or cognitive difficulties could put an older driver at risk. More than 80 percent of eye care providers said they would need more tools to better gauge these abilities. Only 8 percent said that they made a habit of asking about difficult driving situations like merging or reversing.

"We've identified a need and a desire on the part of vision care professionals to help," said study leader David Musch. "Our goal is to intervene and work with our patients in modifying their driving… This will allow them to drive appropriately and maintain their independence."

Families should plan for a senior's safety at home, too. Innovative devices like medical alarm systems can help make sure that an older adult has a way to get help in the case of an emergency.

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