If You're Over 65, Don't Get Behind the Wheel If You Notice This
Not driving under these circumstances can help you stay safe on the road as you get older.
More and more adults over the age of 65 are choosing to keep driving as they get older, according to the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While this is a good way to stay mobile and independent as you age, the risk of being injured or killed in a car accident tends to increase as we get older due to a number of age-related changes that can affect the way we drive. Nearly 700 older adults are injured in automative crashes every day in the U.S., and more than 20 adults are killed as a result, per the CDC. But this doesn't mean you need to give up driving altogether if you're over the age of 65, you might just need to avoid getting behind the wheel under certain circumstances. Read on to find out what you should be looking out for when you're driving at an older age.
You should avoid driving during sunrise or sunset if you're over 65.
If you notice the sun rising or setting, you shouldn't get in the driver's seat when you're older. "Try to avoid driving during sunrise and sunset, when the sun can be directly in your line of vision," the National Institute on Aging (NIA) states on the "Older Drivers" section of its website. According to the NIA, this warning comes because "your eyesight can change as you get older." So as a result, adults 65 years and older have a harder time seeing when driving during certain hours of the day.
"Several issues are linked with an aging eye that can cause a problem for older adults while driving, especially during specific times like sunset and sunrise," says Mark Davis, MD, a doctor working with Pacific Analytics.
One of the biggest issues is reduced pupil size as you get older.
While there are plenty of vision changes that occur as you get older, there is one that specifically hinders your ability to see while driving during sunrise or sunset. According to Davis, the "most significant structural change" that occurs with age is a decrease in your pupil size.
"Due to the reduced pupil size, the eyes of older adults become more sensitive to the bright glares of the sun. The glares coming from the sun can disturb or strike the weakened pupils of older adults and make it difficult for them to see the road clearly, which increases the risk of an accident," he explains. The NIA also confirms this on its website. "Depending on the time of the day, the sun might be blinding," the agency says.
Another issue is that adults 65 and older have a "higher probability of having cataracts," according to Norman Shedlo, OD, an optometrist with the Eyecare Center of Maryland. "If you have cataracts then you're going to have increasing amounts of glare when light is shining directly into your eyes. So the glare of the sunlight will appear even brighter and be even more disorienting," he explains.
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This also makes it harder to drive before sunrise or after sunset.
If you're over the age of 65, you are safest driving in between sunrise and sunset—not before, during, or after. According to the NIA, older adults might also have trouble seeing things clearly at night. When you're older, nighttime driving becomes dangerous for some of the same reasons it is dangerous to drive during sunrise or sunset. "Smaller pupils are unable to clearly see things at night," Davis warns.
Your eyes might also be affected by "increasing glare from bright headlights" when driving at night, according to Shedlo. "Cut back on or stop driving at night if you have trouble seeing in the dark," the NIA advises.
There are other driving concerns that can also affect older adults.
Driving during sunrise, sunset, or at night are not the only issues people are likely to face when driving as an older adult. The American Optometric Association (AOA) says several age-related vision changes that commonly affect driving can start in your 60s. Some of these other concerns include "not being able to see road signs as clearly, difficulty seeing objects up close like the car instrument panel or road maps, difficulty judging distances and speed, changes in color perception, and experiencing a loss of side vision," according to the agency.
"Many eye diseases have no early symptoms. They may develop painlessly, and you may not notice the changes to your vision until the condition is quite advanced," the AOA explains. "Age-related vision changes and eye diseases can negatively affect your driving abilities, even before you are aware of symptoms."