Driving is one of the greatest indications of independence. When we get our first driver’s license, it’s a ticket to freedoms we previously didn’t have, especially in areas of the United States where public transportation is limited.

It can be hard to lose that freedom, and vision problems are one of the biggest things that can affect this. Glaucoma is one of the most common vision problems that occur as people get older. You might be worried about your driving safety if you’re affected by glaucoma. Are you still safe to drive?

Glaucoma and peripheral vision

The way glaucoma works means you might still have excellent vision straight ahead, but your peripherals disappear. That’s a big problem for driving. Glaucoma can affect your judgment time in adverse conditions, and loss of vision on the left side is particularly problematic.

You need both vision for the road ahead and vision to see to the left and right of you, especially when it comes to changing lanes, merging and seeing road signs. Most people with glaucoma can still drive, assuming they pass the vision test from the DMV. But some may have restrictions on their driver’s license as glaucoma advances.

Glaucoma isn’t a statistically significant contributor to accidents, so most people who are dealing with it and driving are only moderately affected. But once it progresses to the stage where peripheral vision is severely impacted, it may take you off the road.

For an unrestricted driver’s license, the DMV requires at least 20/40 vision and 120 degrees horizontal field of vision. They will perform a special vision test for this.

Ways to combat glaucoma-related vision loss on the road

If you’re still able to drive and have glaucoma, you may be able to make up for some of the problems that you’re dealing with by changing behavior and getting some aids.

Night vision and vision in adverse weather conditions are more likely to be problems for people with glaucoma. Try to avoid driving if you know you’re going to be out in the evening or when visibility is bad.

You can also help your vision with specialized tinted or mirrored driving glasses, which may increase contrast and visibility to make up for what you lose with glaucoma. Talk to your optometrist to find out what options are available.

Glaucoma doesn’t have to stop you from driving, but it may limit you. Talk to your optometrist to find out if you can still safely drive and what you can do to mitigate the effects this eye disease has on your daily life.