Being unable to continue driving is one of the biggest issues for people with low vision, as it represents independence and convenience to many. For those living in rural and suburban areas, public transportation is scarce and driving is an everyday necessity.
You might have driven previously but your vision has worsened (with conditions such as hereditary or age-related macular degeneration) or you are a person with long-standing low vision who’s finding it difficult to continue driving regularly. Either way, don’t be intimidated. Driving is a skill that’s available to vision-impaired people; also, it’s somewhat easier to maintain now with new technology and support from institutions that help enable independent living with vision loss.
Here are some important tips to take into account to ensure safety on the road and keep your license.
1. Understand which specific driving skill your lack of vision affects
Normally, you will consult with your vision specialist first and go for regular check-ups to ensure you are carrying your driver’s license responsibly. You know the details of your condition well. However, driving is a complex task – it requires not just visual alertness but cognitive and physical demands as well.
That’s why it is very important to understand how your condition relates to this skill specifically. That way, you’ll be properly prepared once you’re on the road and there will be no confusing surprises. The most common issues that come up as symptoms of various vision conditions are lack of contrast sensitivity and glare sensitivity. We’ll explain these symptoms in more detail here, for the drivers whose vision has worsened so these occurrences are new to them.
2. Avoid low-contrast driving environments
Contrast sensitivity is the ability to detect the difference between light and dark areas – hence, objects are more visible when contrast is increased.
For example, black-on-white and vice-versa are the easiest to notice for people with low vision because it is the strongest contrast. A low-contrast driving environment makes it very difficult to see and discern the objects around you, so it’s best avoided.
Night time, foggy days, and snow are typically problematic driving environments for people with low vision because they offer very little contrast. Drive only on bright days.
3. Protect yourself from glare adequately
Glare sensitivity is a problem when driving during both day and night, as sunlight or bright light shining from traffic refracts and causes confusing, disabling glare. When the light from another car shines in your eyes during the night time, don’t panic, just look slightly to the right of the road. You’ll be able to use your peripheral vision to drive ahead just fine, as it is much less sensitive to glare. During the daytime, always use absorptive sunglasses recommended by your specialist – keep them in your glove apartment so that there’s no chance you forget them.
Another thing that is going to protect you from dangerous glare at all times is a windshield with a protective coating, as experts from Epping Auto Service suggest to all drivers, especially vision-impaired ones. The coating protects the glass from tiny cracks you won’t see and increases visibility. Additionally, make sure your glasses, windshield and car windows are all cleaned and smudge-free. Smudges usually refract light at unexpected angles and cause more glare.
4. Get help from technology
With lower vision, it’s much more difficult to concentrate on the complicated visual environment experienced when driving. Looking out for road signs takes more time and concentration, so it’s best to decrease the need for paying attention to directional signage. You can do this by using a GPS device with spoken directions. Adaptive cruise control and lane alert warnings are also available automobile technology that will be of huge help.
Speaking of technology, this blog has already covered the topic of breakthrough electronic glasses from eSight – you might want to have a look at those.
5. Consider using Bioptics
Bioptic lens systems are prescribed by ophthalmologists and optometrists to aid individuals with low vision when driving, and they are responsible for enabling thousands of vision-impaired people to drive. However, regulations on bioptic driving are different in various countries and states, so inquire about the restrictions first.
Lastly, if your vision has worsened, don’t hesitate to get training again, even though you have driven previously. This is not regular driving school, but training with specialists for driving with low vision. It will help you get over the obstacles properly and feel confident behind the wheel. Ask your eye care expert or a rehabilitation facility for occupational therapists who can help you with low vision driver’s education. Use your judgment wisely, follow these tips, stay calm and enjoy the road!