Doctor, Can I Still Drive? A Conversation with Richard Hom, OD, MPA

Head shot of Richard Hom, OD, MPH. He is facing forward, wearing glasses, and smiling

Guest blogger Dr. Richard Hom has served as a low vision specialist for the Permanente Medical Group’s Golden Gate Service Area of three hospitals. Dr. Hom holds a Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of California and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from San Francisco State University. You can follow Dr. Hom on Twitter @GrandRounds4ODs.

“Doctor, can I still drive?” “Will my license be taken away?” “How can I keep my license and continue driving?”

In my experience, for the vast majority of my vision impaired patients, the potential for losing driving privileges strikes fear into their hearts. Fortunately, vision loss does not mean automatic loss of a driving license or its privileges.

Bioptic Driving Programs

For moderately severe vision loss, innovative programs such as BiopticDrivingUSA are available to train patients to pass a driving test and examination while wearing a special telescope called a bioptic. Thirty-nine states in the United States now allow driving with a bioptic telescope after an exhaustive training program which includes an evaluation and a performance driving examination.

(Note: BiopticDrivingUSA provides helpful information about state-by-state laws governing bioptic driving, how bioptics help with driving, and frequently asked questions about bioptic driving rules and regulations.)

Discuss Your Own Safe Driving Conditions

But for those individuals who have only a mild vision loss, generally better than 20/80 but less than 20/40, a bioptic telescope option may not be suitable. Instead, talking to your eye doctor about your eye condition and discussing under what conditions driving can be safe may be the best alternative.

Consulting your eye doctor for your recent and mild vision loss should not be unnerving. Few, if any, states require your eye doctor to report you to the state motor vehicle department. Therefore, losing your license would only occur upon license renewal or incidental to a motor vehicle accident that involves any kind of bodily injury.

Follow Your Recommended Driving Restrictions

Most drivers who have any kind of vision impairment usually regulate themselves by driving in conditions with which they feel comfortable. This is a key component in working with your eye doctor and the motor vehicle department. They may recommend that you be allowed to continue driving, but with some restrictions pertaining to the time of the day or the area or distance driven.

During your next eye doctor appointment, be open about your willingness to abide by recommended driving restrictions. This demonstrates to the eye doctor and the motor vehicle department that you are prudent and compliant to regulation and can be relied upon to be a safe driver.

In Part 2 of our conversation, Dr. Hom presents scenarios that can best accommodate the driving objectives of all concerned: yours, your family, your doctor, and the motor vehicle department.