New Study Finds Fault With Vision Tests for Senior Drivers

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NEW YORK—Although vision care providers are often placed in a primary role of advising older patients about their ability to drive safely or legally, a new study found that the most frequent tests they use fail to capture the complexities of visual function that contribute to safe driving. In addition, the driving tasks about which they usually inquire include some, but not all, tasks commonly associated with crash risk.

The study, which was conducted by the University of Michigan and published in current issue of Archivers of Ophthalmology, found that common situations that prompted ECPs to ask patients about driving included poor visual function, inquiries from the patient or family and requests from the state. Visual acuity and peripheral vision testing were frequently relied on and performed always or often by more than 80 percent of ECPs, but other ocular test results and non-ocular information were infrequently obtained.

For example, questioning about night driving, reading road signs, and experiencing glare were frequent, but inquiries about driving tasks such as making left turns were infrequent. The likelihood of asking about specific driving tasks was significantly greater with more time in practice and with a higher percentage of older patients in their practice, and the likelihood was significantly less for ophthalmologists that it was for optometrists.

The authors of the study concluded that ECPs need more education about useful resources, tests and questions.