Half of traffic deaths occur at night, according to the National Safety Council.

End of daylight saving time can drive home conversations about night vision

The end of daylight saving time on Sunday-coupled with dwindling daylight, as we head toward the winter solstice-may present a good opportunity for doctors of optometry and patients to start conversations about adjusting their driving habits.

"There is no question—driving in the dark is more dangerous."

Setting their clocks back means many Americans will be commuting to and from work in the dark. According to the National Safety Council, 50 percent of traffic deaths occur at night, though there are fewer cars on the road. Among the factors contributing to that statistic are shorter days, fatigue and compromised night vision, reports the National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization whose mission is "eliminating preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road."

"There is no question-driving in the dark is more dangerous," says Eli Peli, M.Sc., O.D., professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and the Moakley Scholar in Aging Eye Research at the Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ears, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Aging is a factor, he says.

"It's especially an issue for low-vision patients," adds Dr. Peli, who co-authored Driving with Confidence: A Practical Guide to Driving with Low Vision.

The AOA recommends drivers:

  • Avoid looking directly into the glare of oncoming vehicles' headlights.
  • Keep your windshield clean-dirty, streaky and fogged windows can create glare and reduce visibility.
  • Slow down. Increase the following distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Adjust your high beams and driving schedule.
  • Remember to blink, as the drafts from vehicle air vents can cause or exacerbate dry eye symptoms.
  • Improve eyesight by eating lutein and zeaxanthin-rich foods.
  • Visit your eye doctor.

For some older patients, Dr. Peli says, these conversations can be difficult. Patients are often concerned about losing their independence. Yet, he adds, the dangers-to themselves and others-must be driven home. "When you have that conversation, you can talk to them about what is possible and what we can do for them," Dr. Peli says.

Get tips for talking to patients who no longer meet the vision requirement to drive on page 23 of the January/February 2015 edition of AOA Focus.

View the AOA fact sheet, "Vision Tips for Safe Driving at Night," for patients, and learn about the AOA Vision Rehabilitation Committee and Vision Rehabilitation Advocacy Network here.

November 3, 2017

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