Vision screening in older adults does not identify risky drivers

US research has investigated the link between vision screening and motor vehicle collisions in older adults

older driver
Getty/Mónica E. Vázquez Alvarez

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US have concluded that the negative impacts of involuntary driving cessation on older adults are likely to outweigh the safety benefits of vision screening.

The study involved 2000 licensed drivers from Alabama aged 70 and older who had their visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, useful field of view and visual field sensitivity tested. They also underwent a Motor-Free Visual Perception Test.

The study participants were followed over the course of four years, with any involvement in motor vehicle collisions recorded.

Explaining the results of the study, Professor Cynthia Owsley, highlighted that decades of research have failed to identify a link between visual acuity impairment and motor vehicle collision risk.

“Vision screening in older drivers does not identify those who are likely to have collisions in the future,” Owsley said.

“While visual dysfunction in several areas moderately elevates collision risk, it is a significant but small impact, and is not at the level of being sensitive or specific for prevention of collisions.”

The authors emphasised that alternative approaches to improving driver safety should be considered. The research is published in Ophthalmology.