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Bioptics Telescope Glasses For Driving in Southern California

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Home » California DMV Vision Requirements: Simplified » Bioptics Telescope Glasses For Driving in California

If you’ve come across this page, chances are that you or a family member or friend has low vision. You probably have many questions and are seeking answers. If you’ve been wanting to know, “Will I be able to drive again?”, we have some hope for you.

The ability to drive is often taken for granted until the ability is jeopardized. Driving is a source of independence. It allows you to go where you want at your will. It allows you to visit family and friends, to run necessary errands, to participate in hobbies, and to travel. It may be something that you’ve depended on for many years to live your best life.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a low vision condition–macular degeneration, Stargardt disease, albinism, inoperable cataracts, or diabetic retinopathy—bioptic telescope glasses may be an option to help you drive safely.

What Are Bioptic Glasses (Bioptics)?

Imagine you an avid bird-watcher. You are outside in nature and want to view the birds that are perched in a far-off tree. You grab your binoculars, place them in front of your glasses in your line of vision, and look inside. Although the birds are far away, you can see them clearly and in detail because of the binocular’s magnifying properties.

Bioptic telescope glasses perform in a similar way and can be worn while driving.

Bioptic telescope glasses look like regular ophthalmic glasses with the addition of miniature telescopes mounted onto one or both of the lenses. The location of the telescopes is very important and is located above your eye level or line of sight. The telescope has a high-powered lens that significantly magnifies images in the distance. The main “carrier” glasses that you wear contain your distance prescription.

How Do Bioptic Telescope Glasses Work While Driving in California?

Driving safely with low vision presents a number of challenges. A driver has to be able to view road conditions and quickly make decisions to change lanes, speed up, or slow down. A driver must be able to clearly see road signs, traffic lights, and other cars from a distance. This is especially important when driving in a very populated area like Los Angeles, County.

Bioptic glasses work best for spotting objects while driving. Most of the time you will be looking straight ahead and seeing through your distance prescriptions lenses. Then, when you need to look at a road sign, traffic light, or something in the distance, you briefly tilt your head downward to look through the telescope. In this sense, looking through the telescopes is similar to looking through a rearview mirror for just a moment.

It is not intended for drivers to look through the telescopes at all times while driving because it limits their scope of view. Most of the time you will not be looking through the bioptic. You will be looking straight ahead though through the carrier lens containing your best-corrected RX. It will take some time and training to learn how to shift between looking through the carrier glasses to the telescopes while driving.

How Do I Know If Bioptic Glasses Will Help Me?

The first step is to call Dr. Ashcraft to schedule a time for a free telephone consultation. Dr. Ashcraft speaks to all of his low vision patients in the Southern California area before appointments are made since he sees patients from all of Los Angeles Country, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, Ventura Country, and the San Fernando Valley.

He will ask you some questions about the vision and your condition. If he feels he can help you, an appointment will be set. You can call him at 888-648-9525.

The second step is to make an appointment for a low vision examination. If you have low vision and vision loss, it is important to find out how much usable vision you have remaining. A low vision evaluation uses special tests to determine visual acuity. Dr. Ashcraft has low vision devices, including bioptic telescopes, which you can try out for yourself to see if they work for you.

Testimonial: Bioptic Driving with Macular Degeneration in California

Driving With Low Vision in Los Angeles, CA.

If you have vision loss caused by a low vision condition, including age-related macular degeneration, Stargardt disease, diabetic retinopathy, albinism, or glaucoma, you may worry about if you can drive. Driving is a source of freedom, opportunity, and independence, and it can be devastating to hear from a doctor or loved one that it is not safe for you to be behind the wheel.

Luckily, living with low vision does not necessarily mean you cannot drive. There is hope. Many individuals with low vision have received their licenses with the help of low vision devices, particularly bioptic telescope glasses.

Bioptic glasses are a custom eyewear system where miniature telescopes are mounted into the lenses of your normal distance glasses. These glasses are designed so that you can look straight ahead and see using your distance prescription, but when you tilt your head down slightly, you can look into your telescopes to magnify a far away image. The telescopes act like a pair of binoculars.

Bioptic telescope glasses are designed to help individuals see far away objects with greater magnification and clarity. For drivers with low vision, bioptic glasses allow them to see far away road signs, traffic signs, and lights.

Testimonial: Driving with Bioptic Glasses for Stargardt’s Disease

Getting a Driver’s License in California with Bioptic Telescope Glasses

Bioptic drivers have been licensed to drive in California since 1971. Low vision individuals may be permitted to drive wearing bioptic telescope glasses if certain requirements are met.

In terms of vision requirements, a person must have one eye with better than 20/200 acuity. An individual must also demonstrate he or she can drive safely by passing the California DMV road test and a written exam.

Meet the First Bioptic Driver in California

image5In 1970, Dennis Kelleher was a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. He had low vision as a result of albinism and, as a result, had been told throughout his life that he would never drive.

Dennis connected with Dr. Edwin Mehr, the director of the Low Vision Clinic at UC Berkeley’s School of Optometry. Dr. Mehr asked Dennis what he would most like to be able to do, but was unable to do because of his low vision. Dennis greatest desire was to drive.

With his normal best corrected vision, Dennis was not able to see any letters on the California DMV vision screening test so he had lost hope he would ever be able to drive.

Dr. Mehr did a low vision evaluation with Dennis. When Dr. Mehr placed a Designs for Vision 3.0X Galilean bioptic telescope into the trial frame, Dennis proceeded to read all but two letters on the 20/30 line of the chart. With the bioptic glasses he was able to see the California DMV screening requirement of vision better than 20/40.

This was a very good sign. At this point in time, no individuals in the state of California were licensed to drive with the use of bioptic glasses, but there were some drivers in Massachusetts and New York who passed the state driving requirements while wearing bioptics.

After corresponding with the DMV and undergoing the required tests to determine his visual acuity while wearing bioptics., Dennis was given a learner’s permit. He diligently practiced driving under the direction of a driving instructor for a number of weeks.

On March 8, 1971, Dennis Kelleher passed his driving exam after demonstrating that he could drive safely while wearing bioptics. This was the first time a driver with bioptic glasses was licensed in the state of California. This freedom to drive opened up many opportunities to Dennis that may have otherwise been limited. Since 1971, hundreds of individuals with low vision in California have also passed their driving exams with the help of bioptic glasses.

image4After receiving his California driver’s license, Dennis was hired as a teacher in Yolo County,
a rural area where there was no public transportation. Without a driver’s license, he would not been able to get and do this job. Later he estimated he had driven an average of approximately 24,000 miles per year for the past 38.5 years since becoming licensed for a total of 924,000 miles. This mileage for both employment and pleasure includes driving during both daylight and night in urban, suburban, rural, freeway, residential streets and mountain roads settings in sunny, cloudy, rainy, foggy and snowy weather.

Dennis stated: “I believe it is fair to state that I have compiled a superior driving record when compared with the average California driver. I believe this demonstrates that persons can drive safely using a bioptic and do not pose an unreasonably high risk to the general population.”
( Source: http://www.biopticdrivingusa.com/becoming-the-first-licensed-bi/)

If you have questions about bioptic driving with low vision in the Los Angeles area of Southern California, give Dr. Ashcraft a call at 888-648-9525. He offers a free, complementary telephone consultation to discuss your personal situation. This number is available 24 hours a day.

We Are Open! COVID-19 ReOpening—Expectations
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety and well-being of our patients, staff and doctors is our first priority. Read Safety Protocols. Please read our safety protocols here.