A serious car accident can be a traumatic and life-altering experience. So many motor vehicle crashes happen everyday in Southwest Florida, and throughout the Sunshine State. What makes the statistics more concerning is that many of them would have been preventable if the driver at fault had taken precautions to ensure that their vision was good enough to get behind the wheel.
According to U.S. Census Bureau numbers, over 3 million people over the age of 65 call Florida home, and that number will be growing rapidly as baby boomers continue to migrate here after retirement. The fact is that some senior drivers don't realize until it is too late that they have outlived their capability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
As we get older, we have trouble focusing on moving objects, have trouble seeing in low light or at night and can have trouble dealing with bright glare from the sun or from headlights coming towards us. Older drivers also are prone to the onset of glaucoma or cataracts, which can seriously impede their driving skills.
Analysis of National Highway Transportation Administration, (NHTSA), and United States Department of Transportation, (USDOT), data indicates the 75 and older age group ranks highest in the fatal crashes by driver age group per 100 million miles traveled. The fatality rate among drivers 85 and older is higher than any other age group, including teens.
RELATED: If you've been in an accident, learn what you need to know about auto insurance and car accident claims, in our free white paper Accident Injuries and Your Car Insurance: Critical Details You Need to Know.
While many senior drivers understand that at some point their vision is simply not good enough to continue driving, others have trouble giving up the independence their car provides, and are reluctant to face the fact that it is time to hang up their car keys and leave the driving to someone else.
Generally, the best method to make sure a senior driver is still seeing well enough to drive is through close monitoring by a family member. Unfortunately, many older Florida residents don't have a close relative who is nearby, and able to see the signs that failing vision can have on driving a car. In many cases, a medical professional or law enforcement official will take action to alert the older driver that their driving days may be over. The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, (DMV), offers a special form that a doctor or road deputy can use to assure that the senior driver takes the necessary steps to have their vision evaluated in order to retain their driving privileges.
Florida drivers aged 79 or above who renew their license will be asked to undergo a basic vision test to ensure they are able to safely operate a motor vehicle. Those who suspect their vision has deteriorated since their last license renewal should receive an exam by their optometrist prior to going to the license renewal appointment.
The Florida DMVvision standard is 20/50. If a person's vision is worse than that in one or either eye, the person will be referred to a licensed vision specialist to see if it can be improved. If one eye is blind, the other must have 20/40. The accepted minimum field of vision is 130 degrees.
Florida law provides many safeguards in order to ensure that senior drivers are capable of driving. Someone who fails to meet the minimum vision requirements will be referred to a vision specialist and must return with a completed Mature Vision Examination Form.
The DMV also allows the vision specialist to submit vision results online, after which the driver can get their license renewed online, by phone or in person.
If the driver passes the subsequent DMV vision test, their driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if prescribed by their eye care professional).
“We often see cases in which a serous car accident was caused by someone with poor vision who really should not have still been on the road,” says Scot D. Goldberg, Founding Partner of the law firm of Goldberg, Racila, D'Alessandro & Noone. “If you or someone you know seems to be having trouble seeing while driving, we urge you to take action before they are involved in a catastrophic crash.”
There are many resources available to Lee County residents who need transportation once they are no longer able to drive safely:
• Good Wheels
• Lee Tran (public transportation)
• Local bus or taxi service
• Church or Assisted Living Facility transportation
• Family or friends
• Senior Friendship Center
If you have been injured in an accident involving a driver whose poor vision may have been a factor, a skilled motor vehicle accident attorney could be your best recourse for receiving financial compensation for your injuries, property damage, long-term medical care and lost wages. To learn more, contact us at 239-461-5508