Vision Test Hopes To Curtail Auto Accidents Involving Elderly Drivers

According to a New York Times article, in an effort to keep everyone safe on the road, Florida changed its law in January 2004 to require all elderly drivers to have their vision tested.

The law seems to be working.

Requiring drivers 80 and older to pass a vision test for license renewal has reduced the numbers of deaths from Florida Auto Accidents involving elderly drivers.

The death rate for drivers 80 or older declined 17 percent after the law was first passed in January 2004.

Researchers from the University of Alabama analyzed data on fatal auto accidents from 2001 to 2006 among all Florida drivers. They then compared those rates to the deaths in auto accident in neighboring Alabama and Georgia. Neither state requires vision tests for the elderly.

While the number of deaths was down among the elderly, in reality 93 percent of the elderly drivers were able to renew their licenses.

Vision re-screening laws appear to be effective, but the unanswered question remains “why.”

It could be that since an estimated 7 percent of Florida drivers failed to meet vision standards and were denied renewal of their drivers’ license, the laws accomplished their goal. Or it could be that knowing they would fail a vision test, elderly drivers just opted not to renew their license.

“Looking just a little ways down the road- the aging baby boomers, now creeping into their older years, represent the fastest-growing portion of the driving population,” said Gerald McGwin Jr., professor of epidemiology, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

To complicate things further, studies have failed to show a link between seeing well and involvement in Jacksonville, Florida car accidents, or car accidents anywhere for that matter. But you can’t always believe the studies. It just makes sense that driving requires good vision.

You can see the study, The Impact of a Vision Screening Law on Older Driver Fatality Rates, published in the November 11 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

In Florida, if your combined vision is 20/70 in either eye or both eyes allows you to drive without glasses. 20/50 or worse in either eye, whether or not your wear glasses, will have you seeing an eye specialist to seek better vision.

For anyone who needs to take a vision test with the state of Florida, you can have it done when you renew your license.

Or you can have it administered by your doctor who then files a form electronically to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. As soon as it is filed, you will be able to renew your license via the internet.

With our success in Florida in reducing death rates due to Jacksonville auto accidents, expect other states to follow suit.