Eye conditions & symptoms 2 min read

Cataracts and driving

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Drivers with cataracts face a host of visual issues that can increase their risk of road accidents. A driver with cataracts doesn’t pose a danger only to themself but also to other drivers and passengers on the road, cyclists sharing the lane and even pedestrians.

How common are cataracts?

More than half of adults over 65 have cataracts that impair their vision, according to a study by the Vision Impact Institute. Cataracts are responsible for one-third to nearly one-half of cases of global vision impairment and blindness.

How do cataracts affect a driver’s vision?

Drivers with cataracts complain that the glare of oncoming vehicles makes driving at night more difficult. Limiting driving to daytime helps, but bright sunshine can also make it hard to see cars, bikes and other objects on the road (including pedestrians on the path.)

Other signs that a cataract is affecting your vision include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Reduced/negatively affected night vision
  • Colours look faded
  • Double vision

The University of Alabama at Birmingham published in the Journal of Gerontology, driving with cataracts was associated with difficulty:

  • Driving in the rain
  • Driving alone
  • Making turns across oncoming traffic
  • Driving on the interstate
  • Driving in traffic
  • Driving in rush hour
  • Driving at night
Car incident on a pedestrian crossing

How do cataracts affect night vision?

Driving with cataracts is much more difficult at night. In an Australian study in which participants wore goggles that simulated the effect of cataracts, drivers hit significantly more hazards. They also recognised far fewer road signs than drivers with normal vision and spotted fewer pedestrians. When pedestrians wore black clothing, 35% of the drivers with normal vision were able to see them. But none of the drivers with a simulated cataract saw the black-clothed walkers.

Drivers with simulated cataracts took 36% longer to complete the road hazards course.

Steps to take when your cataract impacts your vision

In the early stages, a small cataract may not affect your vision, but regular visits to your optician are essential.

When it starts getting difficult to see with a cataract, you may need to change your glasses or contact lenses.

In the University of Alabama study, drivers with cataracts reported that they drove fewer days and to fewer destinations. Drivers with cataracts also limited their driving to destinations close to home and drove more slowly than the traffic flow.

As your cataracts progress and affect your vision more, cataract surgery, one of the most common surgical procedures performed worldwide, can offer better vision and safer driving.

Cataract surgery

Just how much better vision might you have after cataract surgery?

Senior drivers who have cataract surgery reduce their risk of car crashes by 9% to 50%, according to studies by the Kensington Eye Institute in Toronto and Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid.C

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