Six Ways a Vision Impairment Can Endanger You on the Road

It is vital to have good eyesight if you are planning to drive a vehicle. In fact, good vision is so important for the driving process that you cannot legally obtain a driver’s license without passing a vision test. For example, in Arizona you must demonstrate that at least one of your eyes has 20/40 vision or better to be issued a driver’s license. If you cannot meet that goal without some form of vision assistance, you must get corrective glasses or contact lenses. You will then be issued a class B Arizona driver’s license, which restricts you from driving without wearing your corrective lenses. If you are pulled over by a police officer and found to be in violation of your class B license requirement, you will receive a ticket. You may also be pulled over and ticketed by a police officer if you develop a vision impairment after getting a driver’s license and choose to drive with an undocumented and uncorrected vision impairment. However, the risks involved with vision impaired driving extend far beyond the legal implications. Below is a list of six ways vision impairment can endanger you on the road.

Decreased Color Differentiation May Lead to Misinterpreted Traffic Signals

Although color blindness does not legally prevent a driver from operating a car, it will cause him or her to have greater difficulty identifying color-related signals while driving. Such signals include traffic lights and brake lights on other vehicles. The increased time it takes to interpret such signals may lead to traffic accidents. There are also other eye conditions which can lead otherwise healthy drivers to suddenly have less ability to interpret color quickly, such as cataracts. A sudden loss of the ability to interpret color may increase a driver’s risk of getting into an accident.

Impaired Depth Perception May Increase Accident Risks

Depth perception is the ability to tell how far away objects are. A driver uses his or her depth perception for almost every aspect of driving. If a driver has poor depth perception, he or she may not be able to easily determine how fast other vehicles are moving or how close obstacles ahead actually are. Such interpretation issues may be problematic in situations such as merging from an on-ramp onto a highway, changing lanes while driving or recognizing when it is safe or unsafe to travel through an intersection. Any one of these depth perception-related issues may lead to an increased risk for traffic accidents.

Decreased Peripheral Vision May Make Objects Approaching From the Side Difficult to See

Peripheral vision refers to being able to see objects that are off to either side, as opposed to directly ahead. If a driver has impaired peripheral vision, he or she may have difficulty seeing vehicles, deer, or other animals, people or other objects that are approaching from the side of his or her vehicle. Traveling with poor peripheral vision is particularly dangerous for a driver at night when the field of view is already reduced and less light is available, making collisions with animals and other types of accidents more likely.

Decreased Contrast Sensitivity Causes Multiple Problems

Drivers rely on contrast sensitivity heavily to help them distinguish objects which would otherwise blend into the background. For instance, if a pedestrian is walking along the side of a road at night, it is contrast sensitivity that allows him or her to be seen clearly by drivers. Decreased contrast sensitivity can cause drivers to not see pedestrians and many other objects which blend into the background, leading to accidents. Decreased contrast sensitivity may also make it difficult for drivers to spot small landmarks in the dark, causing them to get lost while trying to reach their destinations.

Light-Sensitive Vision May Lead to Increased Hazards Associated with Glare

Glare is a hazard to all drivers on the road, especially at night when oncoming drivers forget to turn their high beams off while approaching. However, drivers living with preexisting vision impairments that cause extra light sensitivity are more prone to being temporary blinded from sun glare during the day or headlight glare from other vehicles at night. In addition to the immediate danger of colliding with other vehicles, trees or objects, prolonged exposure to glare at night can also cause drivers to become drowsy, making falling asleep while driving more likely. Actions such as wearing protective sunglasses can help some light-sensitive drivers reduce glare-related distractions while driving.

General Visual Impairment May Make Road Signs Difficult to Read

Many of the conditions discussed above, as well as other forms of visual impairment, can make certain types of road signs difficult for drivers to read. Depending on the types of visual impairment involved, drivers may also have general trouble reading all road signs at a distance. Since trying to read road signs closely while moving can be problematic, drivers with general visual impairments may easily become lost if they cannot read road signs at a distance. Important information about hazards or inconveniences such as ramp closures or construction notifications may also be missed, leading to additional road dangers. Due to decreased available light and other factors, many drivers tend to have more trouble reading road signs at night than they do during the day. However, daytime road sign reading difficulties can also occur.