Many adults who have low vision due to macular degeneration and other conditions want to maintain their driver’s license. Driving is an important privilege that represents independence. Through the years, Dr. Winkler’s expertise in optics has enabled many driver’s to maintain their driver’s license when all hope had apparently been lost. That being said, for a driver with low vision, it’s important for them to exhibit a strong sense of responsibility and a willingness to exercise good judgment. They should restrict themselves from driving in situations that they know are unsafe for them (i.e. driving at night).
The decision to continue to drive is a personal one that must be made collaboratively between the patient, their eye doctor, and the local BMV or DMV licensing agency. Also, fear not: An eye doctor CANNOT take your driver’s license away. We mention this because we have been told by several patients that they wish they would have visited our office sooner. They initially hesitated to seek help because they falsely thought that their license would somehow be taken from them.
In some situations, most definitely yes! Sometimes a simple change in prescription is all that is necessary for someone to meet their particular state’s driver’s license BMV or DMV vision requirements. In other cases, more highly specialized types of eyeglasses may be necessary, some examples of which are described below. The important thing to note is that there are many patients with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma and other diseases and conditions of the eye that CAN maintain their driver’s license and continue to drive safely.
A newer development in lens technology is the advent of aniseikonic lens designs for low vision. These lenses utilize special lens curvatures and thicknesses to provide the necessary degree of magnification to improve a patient’s vision. These lenses were developed to bridge the gap between standard eyeglasses and bioptic lens systems (described below). Therefore, aniseikonic lens designs are best utilized for patients whose vision is otherwise just beyond the cusp of what is necessary to obtain a driver’s license.
For patients with more profound vision loss, bioptics are required. During the past 40 years, bioptic glasses have allowed thousands of Americans whose vision falls below the standard legal visual acuity limits to drive an automobile. Fortunately, one can use bioptics to legally obtain a driver’s license in many states, including Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
To obtain a driver’s license using bioptic glasses, the candidate must complete a formalized bioptic driver education training program. Dr. Winkler screens potential candidates for enrollment in such programs.
A bioptic lens system is a combination two-lens optical system with miniature telescopes attached to the lens of a pair of eyeglasses. The telescope is mounted on the eyeglass lens just above the patient’s normal line of sight. Bioptics are available in a number of different styles, sizes, and powers. A slight downward head tilt and upward shift of the eyes can bring a sign or traffic light into view.
In addition to driving, bioptics can be used in many different situations to improve the quality of a person’s life. Therefore, any task or event that requires distance viewing is an excellent indication for the use of bioptics. Examples include television viewing, movies, and live performances such as the symphony, theatre, opera, or grandchildren’s recitals. Others use bioptics at sporting events, church, various social events, or simply going to the park or walking the dog.
Drivers who use bioptic lens systems look through the regular (carrier) portion of the eyeglass lens for general driving purposes 90-95% of the total driving time. In order to utilize the bioptic telescope, the driver must dip their head down slightly. This directs their line of vision through the miniature telescopes. This is done briefly and intermittently. This simple synchronized head and eye vertical drop technique is used to see signs, detail, or road activity more clearly and can be taught through proper training. Once trained in its appropriate use, a low vision driver using a bioptic lens system is able to detect and identify detail and movement of critical objects while driving.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Todd Winkler concerning your driver’s license situation, click here.
Dr. Todd Winkler, 8154 Montgomery Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45236 (513) 791-3556