Visual function, driving safety, and the elderly

Ophthalmology. 1987 Sep;94(9):1180-8. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(87)33309-3.


The authors have conducted a survey of the Departments of Motor Vehicles in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico requesting information about the visual standards, accidents, and conviction rates for different age groups. In addition, we have reviewed the literature on visual function and traffic safety. Elderly drivers have a greater number of vision problems that affect visual acuity and/or peripheral visual fields. Although the elderly are responsible for a small percentage of the total number of traffic accidents, the types of accidents they are involved in (e.g., failure to yield the right-of-way, intersection collisions, left turns onto crossing streets) may be related to peripheral and central visual field problems. Because age-related changes in performance occur at different rates for various individuals, licensing of the elderly driver should be based on functional abilities rather than age. Based on information currently available, we can make the following recommendations: (1) periodic evaluations of visual acuity and visual fields should be performed every 1 to 2 years in the population over age 65; (2) drivers of any age with multiple accidents or moving violations should have visual acuity and visual fields evaluated; and (3) a system should be developed for physicians to report patients with potentially unsafe visual function. The authors believe that these recommendations may help to reduce the number of traffic accidents that result from peripheral visual field deficits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accident Prevention*
  • Aged
  • Automobile Driver Examination
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Humans
  • Safety*
  • United States
  • Vision Tests
  • Vision, Ocular*
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visual Fields