UAB study links eye tests, road safety

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A UAB study showed highway traffic deaths for older drivers in Florida dropped 17 percent after the state passed a law requiring vision tests for people age 80 and older.

In Georgia and Alabama, where such tests are not required, the death rates remained unchanged.

The lead researcher, Gerald McGwin Jr., called the reduction in deaths significant.

States like Alabama should consider special testing for older drivers, according to McGwin, but vision screening may not be the best option.

Nine states plus the District of Columbia require vision tests for older drivers; two states plus D.C. make elderly drivers take a road test, according to the study.

The study looked at fatality rates from 2001 to 2006.

Legislation to require vision tests for older drivers has never been proposed in Alabama.

There are 166,467 people 80 and older with current driver licenses in Alabama, representing about 4.5 percent of the state's licensed drivers.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) AP-NY-11-12-08 0558EST