If you have a medical condition that affects your vision, you may not be able to drive. This could impact your ability to get to work, run errands, and participate in activities you enjoy. In some cases, you may need to give up your driver’s licence altogether.
However, deciding to ignore the issue could be a dangerous move. Not only are you putting yourself and others at risk, but you could also be facing legal consequences, not to mention a personal injury claim being made against you.
This guide will look at some of the conditions that can affect your eyesight and what that means for keeping your licence valid.
Eye conditions that can affect your driving ability
There are several eye conditions that can make it unsafe for you to drive. These include:
- Glaucoma. This condition increases the pressure inside your eyeball, damaging the optic nerve, and as a result, it can lead to vision loss and blindness. Symptoms include a loss of peripheral vision.
- Cataracts. Cataracts are diagnosed when the lens of your eye becomes cloudy, making it difficult to see clearly. Symptoms include blurred vision and becoming sensitive to glare.
- Macular degeneration. This is a deterioration of the central part of the retina, which affects your ability to see fine details clearly and can lead to the deterioration of central vision.
- Diabetic retinopathy. Caused by diabetes, this condition will result in patches of vision loss and sharpness across the visual field.
Other medical conditions that can affect your eyesight
While most people assume that failing eyesight is due to the eye itself, there are other conditions that can affect how well we can see.
- Multiple sclerosis. This is a condition where the immune system attacks the central nervous system, resulting in a range of symptoms, including vision loss.
- Stroke. Experiencing a stroke can result in damage to the optic nerve, as well as other problems that can lead to blurry or distorted vision.
- Traumatic brain injury. A blow to the head can result in damage to the visual cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information. This can lead to a range of issues, including double vision and light sensitivity.
Eye test for driving
The eye test for driving does vary in different countries.
- Be able to read a vehicle number plate from a distance of 20 metres.
- Have an adequate field of vision and a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary).
- If you need glasses or contact lenses to drive, you must always wear them when driving.
- The requirements do vary by state, but 20/40 vision or better is the most common requirement, and that can be achieved by wearing glasses or lenses.
- Most DMV vision tests include some form of a Snellen eye chart, so a DMV employee will ask you to read specific rows to find out how well you can recognize the characters on the chart.
- Canada actually has one of the lowest requirements, with the requirement for vision to be no less than 20/50 (6/15) with both eyes open.
- An on-road assessment is required if you have corrected visual acuity of 20/60 and 20/70 with both eyes open and examined together.
What happens if I’m in an accident and have failing eyesight?
If you are in an accident and it is found that your failing eyesight was a contributing factor, you may be held liable. This means that you could be sued for damages by the other party involved in the accident.
Not only could this lead to a loss of money, but you could also face criminal charges depending on the severity of the accident. For example, if someone is killed or seriously injured, you could be facing manslaughter or even murder charges.
In addition, your insurance company may refuse to pay out your policy if they find that you were driving with failing eyesight and had an accident as a result. When you combine this with the potential for a personal injury claim if someone else is hurt in an accident that you caused, you can quickly see the devastating impact of driving with failing eyesight.
Can I get my driver’s licence back after losing it due to failing eyesight?
It is possible to get your driver’s licence back after losing it due to failing eyesight, but it will depend on the severity of your condition and whether or not it can be corrected.
For example, if you have a cataract that is causing blurred vision, you may be able to have surgery to correct the problem. Once the surgery has been successful and your vision has been restored, you should be able to apply for your licence again.
However, if you have a degenerative eye condition such as macular degeneration, then it is unlikely that you will be able to get your licence back as there is no cure for the condition, and it will continue to deteriorate over time.
If you are still determining whether or not you will be able to get your licence back, you should speak to an optometrist or ophthalmologist for advice.
Losing your driver’s licence can significantly impact your life, both in terms of the financial cost and the inconvenience caused. However, it is essential to remember that driving with failing eyesight can have much more serious consequences.
Not only could you cause an accident that could injure or kill someone else, but you could also be held liable for damages and criminal charges. If you are struggling to see while driving, it is important to get your eyesight checked as soon as possible and to stop driving if it is found to be failing.
Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.