Driving with Low Vision

Driving with low vision is a very big concern for those with macular degeneration and other chronic eye conditions.
driving with low vision

The concept of driving glasses may be new to you - but they may be an option for some people with macular degeneration.

For most people in the United States, the loss of a driver's license and the ability to go somewhere at any time, is one of the most difficult adjustments.

Low Vision Driving

driving with low vision

My father-in-law who was first diagnosed with dry macular degeneration initially had a restricted license and could only drive no more than 10 miles from home and only during daylight hours. Eventually his dry age related macular degeneration turned to wet causing more straight ahead vision loss and he could no longer drive. He has had to make adjustments to this new reality.

How does Macular Degeneration Affect my Driving?

The affects of age related macular degeneration (AMD) on driving is different for each person and for the driving conditions.

For instance on a very sunny day, glare can impair your ability to see. People with AMD often have problems with glare.

This is especially true if someone with AMD also has a cataract. Regular sunglasses sometimes help with glare but they also decrease contrast which can be a problem. Selecting the best sunglasses for you is very important. To read more about what to look for in sunglasses click here: Sunglasses

The other problem with driving with low vision, is the ability to see objects when there isn't much contrast...

...such as seeing a white car on a snowy or cloudy day

... or seeing a black car at night.

When you recognize that this is a problem for you, you can limit your driving yourself to sunny, bright days and daytime driving.

Driving at Night with Low Vision

Driving at night with low vision is very challenging compared to driving during the day.

This is due to lack of contrast sensitivity - which means that if there is a dark object with a light background such as bold, black letters on a white page the words stand out on the stark contrast - but if the contrast is not there such as light letters on a darker background - it is now much more difficult to distinguish the letters or words because of the lack of contrast.

driving with low vision

When you drive at night that contrast element is greatly reduced and it becomes much harder to see any dark colored car or person wearing dark clothes. Driving during a bright, sunny day will be the safest option for you.

Low Vision Driving Glasses

Bioptic or binocular vision may be an option for driving with low vision. Binocular vision is a telescope that is mounted on a person's glasses that helps the driver read signs. One model flips down over the top of your lenses and the object viewed through it automatically comes into focus.

Using these low vision driving glasses, also called bioptics, requires training at a low-vision clinic. It can take months of practice to use them safely and effectively.

To read more about bioptic vision click here:

Bioptic Vision

Book on Driving with Low Vision

If you want to pursue how you can continue to drive safely, there is a book called

Driving With Confidence: A Practical Guide to Driving With Low Vision.

The book is a practical guide that offers information and guidance for those driving with low vision on how to retain their driver's license.

One reviewer stated this about the book:

"The guide urges readers to educate themselves about their state's DMV vision policy, investigate the various aids and devices available for vision-impaired drivers, and then come to their own conclusion as to whether they should be behind the wheel."

If this book sounds interesting to you, check it out by clicking on the link.

When to Stop Driving

When to stop driving if you have vision problems, is a question you must ask yourself before you or someone else is injured.

Some things that can alert you to this issue are if you have difficulties reading the dashboard instruments on your car or trouble reading road signs. If you have feelings of being disoriented while driving or notice that a car or pedestrian pops out of nowhere are other red flags that your driving may not be safe.

Each state in the U.S. has different vision requirements for driving. Most states require that vision be corrected to 20/40 in the better eye for obtaining an unrestricted driver's license.

Just because your driver's license has not expired, does not mean that it is still valid. To maintain a valid driver's license each person is obliged to report to the responsible authority any changes in his/her health, medical, and mental condition, including but not limited, to vision problems.

If you are driving with an invalid license, your insurance coverage may not be binding. When to stop driving is a decision that you can make yourself, but if your loved ones are bringing it up please listen to them and consider the above questions.

Training for Driving with Low Vision

Your eye care expert may refer you to a specialist who can go on a drive with you to see if macular degeneration has affected your driving.

The specialist also may offer training for driving with low vision. Improving your skills could help keep you and others around you safe.

To find a specialist near you, call the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists at 1-800-290-2344 or go to their website at www.aded.net. You also can call hospitals and rehabilitation facilities to find an occupational therapist who can help with your low vision driver's education.

Alternatives to Driving

Unfortunately, public transportation in the United States is sorely lacking which makes it much more difficult to not drive.

In order to continue doing the activities you enjoy it will take some planning and initiative, but it will get you to the places you want to go and the people you want to see.

Consider these alternatives to driving:

√ rides with family and friends

√ taxi cabs

√ shuttle buses or vans

√ public buses, trains and subways

At Living Well With Low Vision website there is a category on the left side titled Transportation Database. It is in the process of being built so it is not complete, but it is a place to check for transportation in your area by city and state.

Transportation Services Directory

Senior Citizens Transportation

Senior centers, religious and other local service groups often offer transportation services for older adults in your community. Who can I call for help with transportation?

Call the ElderCare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 and ask for your local Office on Aging, or go to their website www.eldercare.gov.

Contact your regional transit authority, which can tell you which bus or train to take.

Easter Seals Project ACTION (Accessible Community Transportation In Our Nation) at 1-800-659-6428 or go to their website www.projectaction.org.

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