Report Finds States With Weak Vision Screening Requirements May Endanger U.S. Highways
Washington, D.C. (November 22, 2006) – States with lax vision screening requirements for drivers renewing their licenses may be endangering American roadways, according to a new state-by-state report released today by the Vision Council of America (VCA). The report, Keeping Our Eyes on the Road, finds that of the top 10 states with the highest rate of fatal crashes, four states require no vision screenings after the initial license application and four require screenings only at intervals of eight or more years.
“There is an alarming disconnect in the fact that drivers can go for years without having their eyes checked,” noted Greene. “As more than 30 million Americans take to the roads this holiday season, drivers need to take the necessary steps to ensure their vision is up to the task of safe driving. Many drivers perform the necessary maintenance on their car, yet neglect to take the same care with their eyes.”
This new state-by-state audit reviewed vision regulations in 50 states and theDistrict of Columbia. While the majority of states do have some prerequisites for vision screening for drivers at license renewal, many states allow vision to go unchecked for an extended period of time.
- Nine states do not require any vision screening for drivers during license renewal.
- Four states require vision screenings for drivers only over a certain age, resulting in long periods of time during which a driver could potentially develop an undiagnosed vision problem.
- Thirty-eight states do require vision screenings for drivers, but the majority of those states (twenty-two) allow drivers to go as long as eight years without having their vision checked.
- Only twelve states require vision screenings at intervals of five years or less.
In addition, the report analyzed state data on fatal crash rates, finding that states with less stringent vision requirements have higher fatal crash rates, suggesting that vision may play a role in the public’s road safety. The analysis sought to determine if an association appeared to exist between states’ approaches to vision screenings and their vehicle crash fatality rates. It did not attempt to identify causal agents, as many factors could contribute to vehicle crash fatality rates.
Of the top 10 states with the highest rates of fatal crashes:
- Four require no vision screenings after the initial license application (Alabama,
Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia)
- Four require screenings at intervals of eight or more years (Arizona, Montana, New Mexico and South Carolina)
With the aging U.S. population, Keeping our Eyes on the Roadalso examined special vision screening provisions for drivers as they age. An estimated one in three Americans over the age of 40 has a vision problem, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or cataracts, although many may not even know it.
The report found that in addition to requiring regular vision screenings for all renewal applicants, 20states have additional provisions for adults beginning at age 40. States with additional provisions mandate more frequent vision screenings by either shortening drivers licensing periods or by limiting remote renewals.
Getting regular eye examinations is increasingly important as we age. Problems such as changes in refractive error or cataracts may cause such a gradual decline in vision that a driver doesn't realize he has become visually impaired. Simply getting glasses or updating an eyeglass prescription may dramatically improve a driver's vision, said ophthalmologist Elaine G. Hathaway, M.D.
Most vision impairment among adults can be corrected with early diagnosis and proper treatment. A recent study by NEI found that 93 percent of vision problems among adults age 40 - 59 and 59 percent of vision problems among adults over age 60 can be corrected with proper treatment, making it all the more important for adults to receive regular eye exams.
Given the high incidence of uncorrected vision problems among adults, as well as the nation's aging population, road safety is a significant concern nationwide, continued Greene. The good news is that this problem has an easy answer. With regular vision care, drivers can prevent poor sight from putting themselves and their loved ones at risk on the road. Regardless of what your state requires, the best way for drivers to maintain healthy vision is through regular comprehensive eye exams by an eyecare professional.
Heavy traffic begins to peak the week before Thanksgiving, with the risk of fatal injuries 42 percent higher on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and 19 percent higher than normal on Thanksgiving Day. More than 30 million Americans traveled by car last Thanksgiving, and reduced gas prices (approximately 40 cents/gallon cheaper than 2005) will contribute to an even higher volume of traffic. To reduce this risk, VCA suggests the following tips to help drivers stay safe on the roads:
- Always wear your prescription eyewear and be sure that your glasses are clean.
- Use sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection when appropriate.
- Investigate anti-reflective or polarized lenses to allow more light to enter the eye and to minimize glare.
- If you have trouble driving at night because of difficulty seeing, talk to your eyecare professional.
- Do not wear tinted lenses when driving at night; even lightly tinted lenses can lower the visual quality at night.
- Get the big picture when driving. Watch the road ahead and check either side for vehicles, children, animals or hazards.
- Take breaks when driving long distances to reduce eye strain and fatigue.
- Keep headlights, taillights and windshield (both inside and outside) clean.
- Receive regular eye exams by an eyecare professional to ensure that your eyes stay healthy and your prescription remains current.