Improve Driving With Surgery

There may be some good news for senior drivers, as reported on Friday's Early Show.

Senior citizen drivers with cataracts who elect to have cataract surgery may find it safer behind the wheel.

According to a study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), older drivers reduce their risk of being in an automobile crash by at least half with the surgery and intraocular lens implantation.

During the study, 277 patients between the ages of 54 and 88 with cataracts from October 1994 to March 1996 participated. Of those, 174 elected to have cataract surgery. During the four-to-six-year follow-up period, the surgery group had half the crash risk of the non-surgical group. The crash rate for the surgical group was 4.74 crashes per million miles of travel. The non-surgical group had a rate of 8.95 crashes per million miles of travel.

Older drivers share the unfavorable distinction (with people younger than 25) as drivers most likely to be involved in automobile accidents.

The authors report that cataracts are the leading cause of vision impairment in older adults in the United States. Half of white adults and 60 percent of African-Americans aged 65-74 have cataracts.

Cataracts cause deficits in acuity and contrast sensitivity and increases disability glare. Older drivers with cataracts are more likely to have a history of recent crash involvement, compared with older drivers who are cataract-free.