December 2008




Vision screening for elderly



A new study suggests that mandatory vision screening for senior Florida drivers may be linked with lower death rates from traffic crashes in this age group, the Washington Post reported. Passed in 2004, a Florida law requires drivers over age 80 take a vision test, and pass the exam before they can renew their driver’s license. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed 2001-06 data on motor vehicle collision traffic deaths among all drivers in Florida, the report said. The study authors compared those rates to neighboring states Alabama and Georgia, which don’t require vision tests for elderly drivers, according to the article.

The researchers found that overall motor vehicle collision death rates in Florida increased by 6%, from 14.61 to 14.75 per 100,000 people each year from 2001 to 2006. However, among elderly drivers, death rates decreased by 17%, from 16.03 to 10.76 per 100,000. In Alabama and Georgia, the researchers found no changes in death rates among older drivers. Published in the November issue of the journal Archives of Ophthalmology, the study suggested the reason for the findings is that the screening law removed visually impaired drivers from the road. The authors conceded that the situation is far more complex in reality. Another finding the researchers noted was that about 93% of elderly drivers were able to renew their license, indicating that only a small percentage were denied licenses, because they failed the vision test. They suggested that the vision screening law improved elderly drivers’ visual function overall, because many who failed the first test sought vision care and returned with improved vision. A further suggestion was made that those with poor vision didn’t bother applying for license renewal, the article said.

Although according to the report, the study authors wrote, “Ultimately, whether the vision screening law is responsible for the observed reduction in fatality rates because of the identification of visually impaired drivers or via another, yet related, mechanism may be inconsequential from a public safety perspective,” they also noted, “The importance of driving to the well-being of older adults suggests that isolating the true mechanism responsible for the decline is, in fact, important.” The identification of this mechanism would allow states to introduce laws accurately targeting high-risk older drivers while allowing low-risk older drivers to keep their licenses and mobility, the researchers said.


Reported by: EyeWorld News Services

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