Can the Visually Impaired Learn to Drive Safely?

Can the Visually Impaired Learn to Drive Safely?

It can be hard for visually impaired people to retain their independence when their vision problems make it unsafe for them to drive. They must rely on family, friends, and neighbors to take them wherever they need to go, and that can be an inconvenience to both the visually impaired person and the people who have to drive them around.

Can the Visually Impaired Learn to Drive Safely?The good news is that for people with vision impairments that are bad enough to prevent them from driving even with corrective lenses, there is a small piece of technology called bioptic telescopes that can give them their independence back and allow them to drive. And for people who have a condition called hemianopia, which is partial blindness in the vision field, there are studies being conducted with driving simulators that may result in allowing them to drive again in the future.

Bioptic Telescopes

Bioptic telescopes are special eyeglasses that have small telescopes mounted on them toward the top of the lenses. While they enlarge images a lot like the way binoculars do, their function isn’t necessarily to make things larger for the visually impaired but rather to allow them to see from farther away.

What makes driving so unsafe for these visually impaired people is the fact that they have to get extremely close to a sign or traffic signal before they can see it, which leaves them almost no time to react and slow down or make a turn. When they’re using the bioptic telescopes they are able to see the signs and traffic signals much sooner, which gives them plenty of time to react.

The visually impaired drivers do not have to look through the telescopes continuously while they drive. They can tilt their heads down to look through the telescopes to see what signs or traffic signals are in the distance.

They take a bit of time to get used to, but the visually impaired using them go through training to be able to use them properly. They start off using the telescopes while walking around or riding as a passenger and once they have gotten used to using them that way, they are then able to start driving with them.

This invention has given many people with vision impairments the ability to become independent again. Unfortunately, they come with a price tag of about $2,000 at the lower price point, so there are a lot of visually impaired who could benefit from them but can’t because insurance does not pay for them and many cannot afford to spend that amount of money out of pocket.

Driving Simulators for Hemianopia

When people are diagnosed with hemianopia it means they have gone blind in half of their visual field in one or both of their eyes. This condition occurs from various trauma, tumors, or strokes and it leaves these individuals unable to drive any longer.

The laws in some parts of the United States, as well as in some other countries around the world, prohibit people with hemianopia to drive at all. In other countries throughout the world, people with hemianopia are allowed to drive if they pass a special driving test. There is hope that in time most people with hemianopia will be able to drive assisted by special devices and extensive training, and that is what researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute are working on trying to develop.

The problem people with hemianopia have is that in order to view the entire intersection they have to turn their heads more to the side that their vision loss is on than people with normal vision do in order to see what other cars or obstacles are there. If the driver doesn’t turn their head enough to see the entire intersection, this poses a huge safety risk to the visually impaired driver as well as to other people on the road.

To determine if people with hemianopia would scan the intersection the way they needed to in order to compensate for their loss of field vision, the researchers used a driving simulator to study the actions of people with hemianopia and compared them to people with normal vision. Unfortunately, the results were not that good. The people with hemianopia either didn’t look far enough toward the side that their vision loss was on or they didn’t look at all.

The researchers hope that if people with hemianopia receive training to teach them how to properly compensate for their loss of field vision while driving that maybe they will be able to safely drive eventually.

Eyesight Improvement

While natural vitamin supplements will not help people with hemianopia restore their vision, some people with common vision problems might be able to improve their eyesight through the use of eye vitamins like our Ocu-Plus Formula. If your vision is poor due to common vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia, or astigmatism, eye vitamins can actually strengthen your eyes and help prevent eye diseases.

Many people who have had to wear corrective lenses their whole lives have actually improved their vision so much with eye vitamins that they no longer need corrective lenses to see clearly. That is a huge step in the fight against vision loss, as is the latest technology mentioned here. So, even if you can’t afford fancy telescopes or don’t want to undergo risky procedures like LASIK, you can still work on strengthening your eyes naturally and safely.

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About the Author

Avatar for Tyler Sorensen

Tyler Sorensen is the President and CEO of Rebuild Your Vision. Formerly, Tyler studied Aeronautics (just like his brother) with the dream of becoming an airline pilot, however, after 9/11 his career path changed. After graduating top of his class with a Bachelor of Science in Informational Technologies and Administrative Management, he joined Rebuild Your Vision in 2002. With the guidance of many eye care professionals, including Behavioral Optometrists, Optometrists (O.D.), and Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.), Tyler has spent nearly two decades studying the inner workings of the eye and conducting research.

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