Driving tests

Can you drive if you’re blind in one eye?

Being blind in one eye means you have monocular vision. This makes it much more difficult to:

  • Judge depth (3D vision) – this is worse within around 10 metres of the vehicle, which makes parking an issue
  • Judge the speed of an object approaching (3D vision) – again, it’s worse the closer the object is to you, so pay special attention to pedestrians and cyclists approaching
  • See peripheral objects (there’s around a 30% reduction towards the affected side) – this makes checking your blind spot much more difficult when changing lanes
  • Drive for long periods due to eye fatigue, especially immediately after losing the sight in one eye
  • Drive at night – there’s less information coming into your brain because you only have one eye doing all the work

If you have lost vision just for a short period of time, e.g. you’re wearing an eye patch due to an injury or operation, then it’s advisable not to drive. However, if the vision loss is permanent, then you will need to see an optometrist, ophthalmologist or health practitioner who will assess you and give you an eyesight certificate if you meet the requirements. Here are the general requirements for vision while driving.

How long will it take to adjust to losing the sight in one eye?

It can take from a few weeks to a few months or more for your brain to adapt. In that time, you’ll become less clumsy over time as your brain begins to compensate. It’s generally recommended to not drive during this time.

You can consult an occupational therapist or vision rehabilitation therapist to learn the best strategies for coping with monocular vision.

Tips for driving with one eye

  1. Ensure your mirrors are set up correctly (adding convex blind-spot mirrors can help, too); you may want to invest in a rear-view mirror with a convex face to give you better vision all around, plus you can also purchase convex mirrors.
  2. If possible, purchase a car with reversing sensors and cameras to compensate for your reduced depth perception while reversing.
  3. Avoid vehicles that have large blind spots (e.g. some larger utes)
  4. When you first start driving again, drive in clear, dry weather. Driving in bad weather is even more difficult with one eye.
  5. Scan the road ahead by actively moving your head as well as your eye.
  6. Drive with an experienced passenger until you’re used to it again; one that can help you should things go wrong. You can also use them to help you when merging or overtaking.
  7. When parking, choose a place that’s easy to exit – the end of a row, or where there are no other cars parked; if this isn’t possible, when you return to your car, check your strategy for exiting.
  8. Keep your windows clean and clear – don’t make it any harder on your one remaining eye
  9. Look after your eye – if it’s feeling scratchy or tired, take a break.
  10. Don’t point air conditioning toward your face as it will dry out your eyes quicker
  11. Use a larger following distance in slow traffic when the traffic ahead of and around you will be in that critical 10m zone when depth perception is worse.
  12. You may want to rely more on sound to know what’s around you, which means less listening to the radio; some people with monocular vision report that their hearing becomes more attuned to their surroundings to compensate for the lack of sight.

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Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

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