Not As Cut and Dried

Back for a page sooner than I thought. I wanted to get some of this out there before it got too stale.

I told you I was going to the first vision seminar offered by our local hospital. Yes? Yes. The presenter, Paul Freeman, is the chief of low vision rehabilitation at Allegheny Hospital. That’s Pittsburgh; don’t ya know. Dr. Freeman’s first talk was about driving. Like many things, driving appears not to be quite as cut and dried a topic as I generally thought.

Freeman quotes statistics indicating drivers with intermediate AMD – not advanced like yours ever lovin’ truly – are less likely to have accidents than others including ‘normals’.

The reason was many of people with intermediate AMD are aware of their problems and do four things: compensate, avoid, use caution and self-regulate.

All great strategies for trying to stay safe. However, Freeman also pointed out AMD with its acuity loss as well as decreased contrast sensitivity can cause a decrease in response time. Response time is crucial! For every 1.5 second it takes you to decide there really is something there and hit the brake, at 30 miles an hour you have gone 66 feet. Moving at 65 mph a second and a half’s hesitation will find you 142 feet farther down the road. That is nearly half a football field. Distance traveled increases if the vehicle goes into a skid.

Of course, response time is dependent upon much more than visual acuity. Physical and cognitive states come into the mix. And speaking of cognitive ability, Freeman also quoted a 2006 AREDS study suggesting a possible correlation – not causality – between advanced AMD and cognitive impairment….but what do they know; right??

Freeman reported ways of getting around some of our cognitive deficits are to reduce the burdens on attention and memory. We might have to turn off the radio or decline to take chatty or argumentative family members along for the ride. Cell phones are a definite no but talking GPS can help to take some of the burden of navigating.

Of course it would be easier if the only people we have to worry about while driving were us. Quite bluntly, people do the damndest things. Remember the YouTube video of the woman texting and falling into the fountain? She has sisters…and brothers. People are walking into things and each other and off curbs more than ever.

The takeaway message I got from the driving presentation was this: just as each of us is multifaceted, the decision whether or not to drive should also be multifaceted. How is your contrast sensitivity? How much glare can you handle? How fast is your eye-foot reaction time? How confusing and busy are the places you want to drive? All these and more have to be considered.

Written September 26th, 2017

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