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Eye doctors in good position to gauge issues with older drivers

While teen drivers are often labeled as the most dangerous on the road, there is another demographic that is at a higher risk of being in a motor vehicle accident-older drivers. As the baby boomers age, this group is growing larger each day, not only in the Pittsburgh area, but throughout the nation. According to a recent study, by 2020, there will be 40 million drivers on the road over the age of 65 nationally.

There are a variety of driving challenges these individuals could face as they reach that age including slower physical response times, slower reasoning and issues with their eyesight. Any of the preceding issues could lead to an increased risk of causing or being involved in a car accident. For individuals between the ages of 65 and 74, car accidents are one of the leading ways in which people die.

Issues with the older population's eyesight may be addressed in a variety of ways. Because many turn to eye doctors for prescription glasses when they get older, perhaps the most logical place for questions about the vision of older drivers is their ophthalmologist or optometrists. Two recent studies explored just how much time and energy these eye doctors were putting into learning about their patients' driving ability.

On the positive side, the studies determined that many eye specialists do in fact ask their patients about their driving. Unfortunately, when the response to the inquiry indicated that there may be some issues with driving ability, few followed-up and referred their patients to the doctors who usually provided primary care. There are likely many reasons for this including concerns about liability and feeling as though they are undermining the doctor-patient relationship.

A referral of this sort will not necessarily result in the older driver being pulled from the road. Working with a rehabilitation therapist may prolong the time an individual is able to be behind the wheel. This is particularly true when the driving issue is due to something other than vision such as physical limitations.

Source: HealthDay, "Eye Docs Must Do More to Spot Unsafe Older Drivers: Study," Carina Storrs, Oct. 11, 2012

  • Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Pennsylvania car accidents page.
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