One of the great motivators for individuals to pursue bioptics is that they may become eligible to drive.
In 2013 the State of North Carolina, my home state, passed its bioptic driving law that would enable some visually impaired individuals to be eligible to obtain a driver’s license. Soon afterward I was invited to make a presentation to the state’s DMV Medical Board to explain what bioptics were all about and how they are used for driving (seems kind of backwards, doesn’t it?). While I had expected to give a 30 minute presentation, the meeting lasted 2 hours and discussions explored a range of subjects related to vision and driving.
Soon after, I was invited to join the DMV Medical Review Board where I became involved not only in reviewing and ruling on DMV actions regarding individuals who were deemed inappropriate for licensure based upon a range of issues including vision, diabetic control, seizure disorders, substance abuse, cognitive status, behavioral issues and high accident rate. In fact, the majority of the cases I was involved in reviewing were not vision-related at all.
In addition to my role examining the cases of individual drivers, I became involved in reviewing and revising the DMV’s vision guidelines including developing the process for licensing bioptic drivers. After several months of exploring the range of options, including meetings with stakeholders, we developed the methods and process that would be used for evaluating drivers. These were boiled down to be as easily administrable as possible. But there are 100 counties in the state, and many hundreds of DMV examiners, and more often than not, the examiner was unlikely to have previously encountered a bioptic driver. In addition, feedback I received from my own patients when they pursued their bioptic driver’s license, was that the DMV examiner had little idea how to perform vision tests on these individuals nor how to evaluate their on-road driving skills.
As a result of these issues, and as part of my role on the DMV Medical Board, I wrote a whitepaper backgrounder both for my NC Medical Board colleagues (one of whom was an ophthalmologist, while the others were neurologists, geriatricians, and a physiatrist) and for the DMV examiners in the field.
In addition, as part of my role at Ocutech, I created three information brochures including:
- For the driver: What driving with a bioptic is all about
- For the driver: Learning to use your bioptic for driving
- For the DMV Examiner: Suggestions for testing a bioptic driver
I’m pleased to share this information with the low vision provider community. I hope that this information is helpful and I invite you to share it as you see fit to help promote an effective understanding of how bioptics may enable visually impaired individuals to drive.