If you were born with one eye or lost an eye in adulthood, you may be wondering if you can operate a motor vehicle legally with one eye. Permanent vision loss in one eye is called monocular vision loss. As long as your vision in your functioning eye is sufficient to pass your state’s vision test, you may be eligible to drive. Let’s talk about it!

Monocular Vision Loss

With monocular vision loss, you likely have a lack of depth perception and poor peripheral vision on a single side. Such limitations can become a challenge in your daily activities, which include your ability to drive. The good news is many individuals with good vision in their other eye can lead a good life and safely operate a motor vehicle.

Who Is Eligible to Operate a Vehicle If They Have Monocular Vision Loss?

If you have vision loss in one eye, you may still be eligible to operate a non-commercial vehicle in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. However, you must pass an eye exam and you must demonstrate that you have adequate peripheral vision, so you can safely operate a motor vehicle. There are some instances where you may be eligible to operate a commercial vehicle, such as a truck.

Safety Considerations

To operate a motor vehicle safely, you must be able to do the following:

  • Accurately track moving objects
  • Judge distances accurately
  • Have adequate depth perception

Losing vision in one eye can affect these skills, which makes it harder to judge distances, especially in the dark. You could also experience difficulty parking. Individuals who grow up with monocular vision can generally judge distance and depth just as well as anyone who has vision in both eyes.

If you lose vision in one eye when you’re an adult, you may experience more challenges when it comes to safely operating a motor vehicle. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. With proper training and practice, you may be able to drive and park safely. Vision rehabilitation and occupational therapists can assist you with making the necessary adjustments to help you maintain an excellent quality of life.

State-Specific Requirements

Each state allows individuals who have vision in one eye to operate a motor vehicle if they meet specific criteria. You may be required to prove your vision criteria by completing a vision test or by obtaining a doctor’s authorization that indicates you see well enough to drive.

Some states may allow you to drive by meeting specific requirements and having certain restrictions. These restrictions may be based on speed and daylight area. You may also be required to have a rear vision mirror installed on the side of your blind eye or outside mirrors on both sides of your vehicle.

While it is possible to operate a motor vehicle with one eye, assuming that you have good vision in the other eye, it’s legal in many states. There isn’t a federal law that dictates whether individuals who have monocular vision can operate a motor vehicle, each state determines these regulations. You may want to consider completing specialized driving courses in your area.

Operating Commercial Vehicles With One Blind Eye

Generally speaking, you can operate a semi-truck with one eye if you have 20/40 vision in that eye. Be advised that if you plan on operating a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce, you are required to apply for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) vision exemption.

The FMCSA proposed changes to its operation regulations regarding the vision requirements for truck drivers. This new approach does not rely on federal vision exemption waivers. Instead, medical professionals and carriers can determine whether a driver with limited vision in one eye can safely operate a commercial vehicle.

Alternative Vision Standards

According to the alternative vision standards provided by the FMCSA, you must complete a vision evaluation, provide a medical examiner’s exam, meet the road test requirement, and compensatory behavior.

Vision Evaluation

Completing a vision evaluation is the first step in the process of being eligible to operate a commercial vehicle with one blind eye. This evaluation must be completed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The vision evaluation will document information regarding your vision and provide specific medical opinions based on the recommendations from the FMCSA’s Medical Review Board.

Medical Examiner’s Exam

Only approved FMCSA driver medical examiners can perform the medical examiner’s exam. If you meet the required vision criteria and other physical qualification standards, the medical examiner may issue a Medical Examiner’s Certificate, which is valid for a maximum of 12 months.

Road Test Requirements

Although there are certain exemptions, drivers who qualify under the alternative standard must complete a road test before they can operate a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce. These road tests are administered by motor carriers.

Compensatory Behavior

Individuals who have vision loss in one eye may develop compensatory viewing behavior that mitigates their vision loss.

What is Visual Acuity?

Visual acuity is the sharpness of your vision, and it measures how well you can distinguish details, such as objects and letters, from a specific distance. Visual acuity is expressed as a numeric value, and this value helps ophthalmologists determine if you require vision correction or if your vision has changed.

A visual acuity number can also determine if you have a visual impairment, such as nearsightedness (myopia) or far-sightedness (hyperopia). Specific tests can be performed to evaluate the clarity and sharpness of your current vision.

When Are Visual Acuity Tests Performed?

You will likely have a visual acuity test performed during a comprehensive eye exam with your ophthalmologist or optometrist. Visual acuity tests can be performed for children and adults. This testing may be recommended to be performed more frequently if you have certain risk factors, such as a family history of eye diseases.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) suggests that adults have a yearly eye exam, and children should have an eye exam between the ages of 6 and 12 months, and another exam between 3 and 5 years of age. Children should have another eye exam before they start the first grade, and then have an eye exam every year.

What Is an Eye Chart?

Eye charts are tools that medical professionals use to determine visual acuity. These charts help doctors evaluate your current vision based on how well you can identify certain letters, objects, and patterns from a specific distance.

What Are the Different Types of Visual Acuity Charts?

There is more than one visual acuity chart. Your doctor may use one or multiple charts to determine your current vision and assess any eye diseases, such as the following:

  • Snellen Chart

The Snellen chart is the most commonly used eye chart for testing visual acuity. This chart features different rows of capitalized letters that decrease in size as you progress down the chart. The top row of the Snellen chart often contains a single large letter “E”. You will be instructed to read the letters aloud from the smallest row you can see clearly.

  • Random E Chart

Similar to the Snellen chart, the Random E chart involves a series of capital E’s that are arranged in different orientations. The Random E chart enables eye doctors to test the visual acuity in individuals who can’t read letters, such as children, or those who are unable to communicate verbally.

What Happens During a Visual Acuity Test?

During a visual acuity test, you can expect to be sitting or standing a certain distance away from the eye chart. Adults will stand 20 feet away from the eye chart, while children often stand 10 feet away. Some visual testing devices use mirrors, so you may be tested by looking into a machine.

Next, you’ll cover one eye at a time and read the letters aloud from each row. There will be multiple rows of letters on the chart. You’ll start at the top of the chart and work your way down the chart until you can no longer see the letters or they become difficult to read. The smallest row of letters you can read helps doctors determine your visual acuity.

Eye care professionals can perform this test whether individuals have their glasses on or not if they wear them. These professionals can test for corrected or uncorrected vision to help them determine if your current prescription is effective enough to meet your needs.

What Do Visual Acuity Numbers Determine?

Your visual acuity numbers tell eyecare professionals how well you can see. These acuity numbers are expressed as a fraction. The first numbers represent the distance you stood from the eye chart in feet. The second number represents the distance at which an individual with normal vision can see the same line of letters, which is also measured in feet. Let’s look at the numbers.

20/20 Vision

20/20 vision is considered standard or “normal” vision. People who have 20/20 vision can see objects clearly at 20 feet, which is what individuals are expected to see. However, having a 20/20 vision is not a “perfect” vision. Why? Visual acuity does not account for peripheral vision, color vision, or depth perception, in addition to other aspects of vision.

20/40 Vision

Individuals with 20/40 vision can see at 20 feet what an individual with normal vision can view at 40 feet, which means their vision is only slightly less than what is considered normal. In most U.S. states, a visual acuity score can be no less than 20/40.

20/60 Vision

Individuals who have 20/60 vision can see at 20 feet what an individual with normal vision can see at 60 feet, which is deemed a moderate visual impairment. People who have 20/60 vision may require contact lenses or glasses to improve their sight.

20/100 Vision

People who have 20/100 vision experience visual difficulties, and they can only see at 20 feet what an individual with normal vision can see at 100 feet. Individuals with this vision acuity score will require glasses or contact lenses to correct their vision. Surgery may be a solution to help improve their vision.

Can Vision Acuity Scores be Categorized?

Sure! Visual acuity scores are categorized based on the severity of vision loss. We’ll break down the categories for you.

  • Mild Visual Impairment (20/30 to 20/60)

If you have between 20/30 to 20/60 vision, you have fairly normal vision. You may experience little to no trouble reading small print or recognizing faces from far away. You may need to wear contact lenses or glasses for certain activities.

  • Moderate Visual Impairment (20/70 to 20/160)

If you have a moderate visual impairment, you may experience difficulty performing daily tasks. You may benefit from vision correction, such as contact lenses or glasses, to help you perform day-to-day tasks.

  • Severe Visual Impairment (20/200 to 20/400)

Individuals who have a severe visual impairment have a profound decrease in vision. If you have a visual impairment of 20/200 or less, you are legally considered blind. You may require assistance or special devices to help you complete daily activities or tasks.

  • Profound Visual Impairment (20/500 or less)

Anyone who has a profound visual impairment has extremely limited vision, and will most likely need extensive care or assistance to complete daily chores and activities.

Improving Your Vision

If your optometrist or ophthalmologist diagnosis you with a visual acuity issue, you may have to wear corrective lenses, such as contact lenses or eyeglasses to improve your sight. It’s important that you follow the recommended schedule for replacing your corrective lenses using the schedule set by your ophthalmologist or optometrist. Having the correct prescription ensures you maintain optimal vision.

Can Corrective Lenses Help with Monocular Vision?

If your ophthalmologist or optometrist suggests monovision corrective lenses, you will experience an improvement in your near vision in one eye while maintaining good vision in your other eye. However, the results of wearing corrective lenses for monocular vision depend on your unique situation. You should expect to endure an adjustment period as your brain adapts to your new vision.

Understanding New Risks

If you’re still adjusting to monocular vision, whether you have corrective lenses or have just experienced trauma, you will have to make different adjustments, such as keeping your balance and finding your way around.

If you have monocular vision, it’s likely you have a limited field of vision and experience difficulty with depth perception. Because of this fact, you may find that you fall a lot or often bump into things. You may also trip over things more frequently than you did before your vision changed.

You can use these tips to help reduce your risk of injuries and accidents:

  • Line colored tape around the edge of the stairs and steps so they stand out
  • Keep clear paths in your home so you can manuever easily
  • Use handrails when they are available and have them installed in your home (if necessary)
  • Frequently touch walls and other objects in your surroundings to gain a better sense of location
  • Get into the habit of turning your head so you have a more complete view of your surroundings

Also with monocular vision, you can experience physical systems, such as photosensitivity, eyestrain, fatigue, and glare. You may also experience neck pain from having to turn your head frequently.

Is There a Way to Retrain Your Vision?

There are different exercises you can do to help your working eye adapt to the changes in your vision and being in charge of your vision. You can try the following exercises and behavior changes to help with managing your range of vision and loss of depth perception:

  • Improve your method of judging distance by reaching for different objects to better understand how far an object is from you.
  • Work on expanding your line of business by turning your head from side-to-sde
  • Place tape on the floor in your home and practice walking in a straight like to help you improve your balance.
  • Practice throwing a ball or a similar object to help you improve your focus of moving objects

Reasons Someone Loses Sight In One Eye

There are different reasons an individual loses sight in one eye. If you have monocular vision, this means you have visual impairment in one eye, or you have lost an eye. You could be blind in one eye, or your eyes are not able to properly coordinate with each other to process images correctly.

Monocular vision decreases your depth perception, which means you are not able to determine where an object is in a given space. This fact is especially true for objects that are close up, often within 3 feet of you. People with monocular vision often have poor depth perception, which is the result of the loss of stereopsis.

Individuals who have monocular vision can experience temporary or permanent vision loss due to trauma, loss of an eye, brain injury, nerve damage, a lazy eye (amblyopia), or crossed eyes (strabismus).

The following medical conditions can also cause vision loss in one eye:

  • Eye diseases: such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or serious eye infection
  • A childhood cancer of the eye(s) (Retinoblastoma)
  • Ocular melanoma (a rare eye cancer that can occur in adults)
  • Anophthalmia (a birth defect where an infant is born with a missing eye or is missing both eyes)

Temporary Loss of Vision in a Single Eye

If you have temporary vision loss in one eye, operating a motor vehicle is generally not recommended. It can take weeks or months for you to adjust to the changes in your vision, especially your peripheral vision and your depth perception.

You may also experience a visual disturbance in your eye while wearing a patch on the affected eye, which is dangerous while operating a motor vehicle.

Did you know that sudden vision loss in one eye can be an indication of an eye stroke? An eye stroke (retinal artery occlusion) occurs when something blocks an artery that supplies blood to the retina. The blockage is usually a blood clot. The retina is the part of your eye that signals your brain to turn light into images. Eye strokes should always be considered a medical emergency. Without proper and immediate care, an eye stroke can result in permanent vision loss in the eye that’s affected.

Is It Safe to Drive with One Eye?

Many people find that they can safely operate a motor vehicle with one eye. However, it takes time and patience to properly adjust to the vision changes. Suppose you’ve had monocular vision since childhood. In that case, it may be easier for you to judge distances and depth perception just as well as anyone who has vision in both eyes, making it easier for you to obtain your driver’s license.

However, if you lose your vision in one eye later in life, you will have to endure the adjustment period. It will take a while for you to be able to correctly judge distances and have adequate depth perception, which means it will take some time before you can safely operate a motor vehicle. The good news is you can consult a low-vision specialist, vision rehabilitation therapist, or occupational therapist, to help you adjust to the changes in your vision.

With time and practice, you will become accustomed to the vision changes and determine the extra steps you need to take to drive safely, such as turning your head more to the side of your blind eye. As time progresses, you’ll be able to train your eye to do the work of both eyes.

Safety Driving Tips for Individuals with One Eye

Safely operating a motor vehicle involves more than adhering to traffic laws and traffic signs. The type of car you drive also matters. You should test drive at least 3 different cars of different models to ensure you have the necessities required for you to drive.

Remember that some car models have more blind spots than others, which can make it difficult for you to operate a car safely. Larger cars often have large rear windows, making it easier for you to see with one eye.

Don’t forget to consider other vehicle features, such as backup cameras and parking sensors. These vehicle features will help you safely navigate the road. Backup cameras can prevent accidents and help you park, thus increasing your safety on the road. Parking sensors help you determine whether a parking space is big enough for your vehicle, which can help prevent accidents and make it easier for you to park your vehicle, and also excellent for a lack of depth perception.

You can also install specific devices on your vehicle to increase your safety on the road, such as blind spot mirrors. These mirrors will be perfect to place on the side where you lack vision.

Can I Drive at Night With One Eye?

Roads often look different at night than they do during the daytime. Every state has rules for operating a motor vehicle when you have monocular vision. However, it’s not advised to operate a vehicle at night or in inclement weather.

Choosing a Suitable Vehicle

When you’re shopping for a vehicle, you should consider the vehicle’s features. As previously mentioned, parking assist and backup cameras are both features that will help you remain safe on the road. You should also consider other features, such as blind-spot monitors can also help keep you safe while on the road.

Other Safety Tips You Should Consider

It’s easy to get distracted while you’re driving. Whether you’ve adjusted to the changes in your vision, or still need more time, you should keep the following safety tips in mind to stay safe on the road:

  • Drive below the speed limit
  • Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you
  • Never text and drive or engage in other distracted driving practices
  • If you need to use GPS, activate voice directions only instead of using a visual map
  • Use road strips, landmarks, and other visual cues to help you judge the distance between objects
  • Only operate a motor vehicle when you are awake and alert
  • Avoid operating a motor vehicle in snow storms, heavy rain, and other severe weather
  • Add multiple blind-spot mirrors to your vehicle to enhance your safety on the road
  • Use head movements (side-to-side) to enhance your field of vision

Always remember that your safety is essential and that the decisions you make should focus on your well-being and the well-being of other drivers. Take your time and stay safe. Happy travels!