A relative of mine has low vision and continues to drive. Is this safe?

Some people who have low vision are able to drive safely. Whether it's safe to continue driving depends, in part, on a person's cognitive abilities and the extent and cause of his or her vision loss.

It also depends on factors such as:

  • Local driving regulations. State regulations regarding vision level and driving restrictions vary. Local motor vehicle departments can provide information about relevant state and local guidelines or laws. They can also provide information about any regulations on using eyeglass-mounted telescopes (bioptics), devices used by some drivers with vision impairments.
  • Environmental conditions. It's generally safer to drive in good weather, during daylight hours or on well-lit roads. It's also safer to drive in familiar areas.

    Glare from the sun can be a problem. All people, especially those with eye problems, should protect their eyes from the sun. It's important that the sunglasses block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses that wrap around are best, because they block light from the sides as well as the front. Polarized lenses may help with glare. A gray tinted lens is a good choice, because it won't affect the perception of traffic light colors, but other lens colors may provide better contrast. It's a good idea to try out sunglasses in different lens colors and darkness levels to find the best option for you.

Pay attention to your own concerns about your driving ability, as well as any concerns expressed by family or friends. If there are concerns or you've had recent accidents or near misses, consider talking with your doctor or low vision care provider.

There are also trained specialists who can offer clinical or driving skills assessments. For example, an occupational therapist can evaluate the impact of a disease on a person's ability to drive and offer strategies for driving safely, as well as when and how to reduce or stop driving. The American Occupational Therapy Association has a national database of driving specialists.


Alaina L. Softing Hataye, O.D.

Nov. 27, 2019 See more Expert Answers