Most people find their eyesight deteriorates as they get older, and while it’s usually viewed as one of the normal side-effects of ageing, in some cases it can hamper your ability to perform everyday tasks – such as driving a car.
All learner drivers must pass an eye test as part of the practical driving exam, which requires them to read a number plate on a parked vehicle from a distance of 20.5 metres. There’s no requirement to re-take the test when your eyesight becomes worse – although some road safety groups believe this should change – and you only have to inform the DVLA if you develop a problem with your vision that affects both eyes, which doesn’t include short- and long-sightedness. Despite this, it’s certainly a good idea to take care of your eyesight as you get older, and be wary of any developments that could impact your safety as a driver and that of other road users. Some of the more common conditions experienced by older people include:
Cataracts – Cataracts are cloudy patches that develop in the lens of the eye, and become more common with age – although they can affect younger people too. This clouding can cause blurred vision, fading colour perception and increased sensitivity to light. They may occur in one eye only, both eyes separately or both at the same time.
You will need to inform the DVLA if you have cataracts in both eyes, and if the condition worsens you may need to stop driving. However, the good news is that in most cases cataracts can be treated with laser surgery, after which you should be able to drive again provided you meet the minimum visual standards for driving.
Macular degeneration – Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs in “wet” and “dry” forms. Both forms cause a loss of central vision due to the growth of blood vessels, which can make it gradually more difficult to drive and read – although peripheral vision usually remains unaffected. You will need to inform the DVLA if you have macular degeneration that affects both eyes. If it is detected in its early stages, the condition’s progress may be slowed down with antioxidants and zinc supplements, but in the advanced stages there is unfortunately currently no treatment to prevent vision loss.