A driver needs to make approximately 20 decisions for every mile driven according to AAA. In addition, a driver has less than half of a second to react quickly enough to avoid an accident. Older drivers experience a decrease in vision, visual perceptual skills and motor response. Consequently, according to the American Medical Association, older drivers are “vulnerable to crashes in complex situations that require good visual perception, attention and response”. Driving at nighttime can be even more harrowing.
Traffic death rates are three times higher at nighttime than during the day time per the National Safety Council.
As we age, our eyes change in ways that make driving at nighttime more difficult:
1. the pupils shrink in size so that not enough light is able to get through them thus making seeing at night more difficult.
2. the cornea and lens change so that they scatter light thus increasing glare and decreasing our ability to detect small differences in brightness.
3. the development of cataracts will scatter more light to increase halos and starbursts around light thereby making it more difficult to see at night.
4. eye diseases that affect our ability to see like macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or cataracts begin to affect 33% of all drivers on the road that are 40 years and older.
5. our eyeglass prescriptions begin to change without us knowing therefore reducing our reaction speed and ability to see.
6. our ability to coordinate our eyes begin to deteriorate therefore causing more blurring, doubling of oncoming headlights, and/or more difficulty distinguishing street signs and lane markers.
Even though we experience these changes in our eyes, not all is lost. Proper vision care can help address many of the eye changes that make driving at nighttime more difficult and dangerous.
“25% of students in grades K-6 have visual problems that are serious enough to impede learning.” – American Public Health Association
“It is estimated that 80% of children with a learning disability have an undiagnosed vision problem.” – Vision Council of America
“Early diagnosis and treatment of children’s vision problems is a necessary component to school readiness and academic learning; and that vision screening is not a substitute for a complete eye and vision evaluation by an eye doctor. Comprehensive eye and vision examinations…are important for all children first entering school and regularly throughout their school-aged years to ensure healthy eyes and adequate visual skills essential for successful academic achievement.” – National PT Policy Statement 2005, Elements of Comprehensive Health Programs
Amidst the excitement of new school supplies, bus routes and teachers, a yearly eye exam is often overlooked. Poor eyesight and visual skills affect academics. Even small amounts of farsightedness or astigmatism have been shown to affect reading speed and increase fatigue when doing near-work. Visual skills such as eye coordination, fine eye movements and focusing skills have been implicated in contributing to poor academic performance.
Sometimes a yearly eye exam is not enough to catch the visual skills that can affect school because vision is more than just 20/20. If the need arises, we can conduct a full visual skills analysis as it relates to academics. We specialize in vision development and its effects on learning and development. This point is important. An eye doctor who does not specialize in this area will overlook the role of visual skills. We have seen many struggling students who have been told by their previous eye doctor that “their eyes are just fine” when they actually have visual skills problems affecting learning. Once their visual skills deficiencies have been diagnosed and treated, their academic struggles improved. Those doctors did not do anything wrong. In fact, they provided excellent yearly eye exams to those students. However, visual skills and its effects on academics was not the area of expertise of those doctors.
Every student should receive a yearly eye exam during the school year. Any child who is struggling with school should also have a full visual skills analysis. For more information on what we do, please visit our website or call us.
Students improved by more than 20 percentage points on their achievement testing when given eyeglasses that corrected for their previously undetected farsightedness. In this clinical study involving three public schools in New York, undetected hyperopia and poor fine eye movements were shown to be related to poor academic performance. The study showed that both undetected farsightedness and poor fine eye movements were more commonly found in students who were performing in the bottom 25th percent of their class. This study did not address improving the poor fine eye movements.
In another study involving 782 elementary students in Iowa, the authors found that students with uncorrected farsightedness scored significantly lower on their reading achievement test scores. The effects of uncorrected farsightedness on reading was again shown in a study involving 1298 eight-year old students in Wales. Students with uncorrected farsightedness scored significantly worse on the national assessment of literacy than those who did not have the same vision problem.
These clinical studies, and others, show that uncorrected farsightedness can have a negative effect on reading. Correction of previously undiagnosed farsightedness can have a positive effect on reading. There are many different factors that can affect academics. Even within vision, there are more issues than farsightedness that can affect a child’s ability to read, write and learn. However, since farsightedness is relatively easy to correct, it is important for any child starting school or any child who may be struggling at school to have a yearly eye exam with a licensed eye doctor. If further help is needed, then the proper follow-up testing or referrals can be made. Farsightedness is easily missed during school or pediatrician vision screenings that only test for distance eyesight and simple eye alignment.