In New Jersey, driving is considered a right, not a privilege. Consequently, there are certain requirements for vision that must be met. In the state of New Jersey, one needs a vision of at least 20/40 in their strongest eye for a regular driver's license. For a commercial driver’s license, one requires a minimum of 20/40 vision in both their eyes. The regulations differ from state to state. There are even some states that require the testing of a driver’s peripheral vision. Driving studies have shown an increase accident rate only when there is a visual problem with both eyes. However, there are many drivers on the road who do not meet these visual requirements, and still drive safely.
The New Jersey Academy of Ophthalmology has been actively working with the state to redefine the visual requirements for driving. One possibility that is in discussion would be to issue a limited license for people whose vision is only slightly worse than 20/40 whereby the individual would still have the ability to drive, but with limitations. Fortunately, many people already self select their driving habits, driving only during daytime hours, when environmental visibility is clear, on local roads, and avoiding bad weather. Just as teenagers have restrictions on their driving licenses, there are many elderly people who should have it as well. As an ophthalmologist, it is always a difficult discussion to have with a patient and their family, as to ‘when to take the keys to the car away’, as independence is lost. As a rule, however, it is better to discourage driving for someone visually impaired TOO SOON rather than TOO LATE.
Guest blogger: Ivan Jacobs, M.D. Founding Partner, New Jersey Cataract and Glaucoma Specialist at The Eye Care & Surgery Center.