The winter months bring shorter days and increased driving hazards due to adverse weather. The change in season can be difficult to adjust to, especially for older truck drivers.
One way normal aging affects older adults is fading night vision. The eye’s retinas function like photo film, reacting to light and images and then transmitting those signals to the brain for interpretation. As we age, our retinas begin to lose their sensitivity to light, requiring more light to function compared to when we were younger. Exacerbating the problem are age-related eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and cataracts. These conditions can creep up slowly over time on older motorists if they do not receive regular eye examinations.
The American Optometric Association has found that adults begin to experience vision-related issues between the ages of 41 and 60. This is an important issue to address with truck drivers because according to the American Trucking Association, the average age of an over-the-road driver is 46, while the average age of a new driver being trained is 35. The majority of truck drivers are either in this danger zone or soon will be.
With impaired vision affecting so many older drivers, this impediment limits their ability to perceive hazards and react in time. This hazard also creates a driving distraction. Drivers may avert their eyes from the road to avoid the headlights of oncoming vehicles, the glare from street lights on wet pavement, and sunshine glaring off the windshield.
Motor carriers should be proactive in addressing the risks of aging and winter driving. Two ways to do this are by promoting regular eye examinations and health screenings, and by educating drivers on the effects of aging and winter driving hazards. Below is a list of tips to share with drivers to help reduce the risk of a vision-related crash while driving:
- Do not drive at night if it can be avoided.
- Wear polarized sunglasses during daylight driving hours but never at night.
- Avoid looking directly at the source of distracting light, even in rear-view mirrors.
- Avoid flashing the high-beam headlights at other drivers, as this could create additional hazards.
- Wait to make a lane change or other maneuver until mirror visibility improves.
- Slow down or pull over to allow other vehicles with distracting headlights to pass.
- Slow down and do not overdrive the range of headlights.
- Adjust stopping distance with your sight distance.
- Keep windows, headlamps, and windshield clean.
- Dim dashboard lights.
Call to Action
- Allow drivers with night vision issues to drive only during daylight.
- Provide on-site eye examinations and health screenings for drivers.
- Conduct training on winter driving hazards with drivers and dispatchers.
Source: Great West Casualty Company