BACKGROUND: Prior to January 1, 2001, the California driving law stated "the department shall not issue a driver’s license to, or renew a driver’s license of, any person" who is not of legal age, who cannot understand traffic signs or signals, who is determined to be unsafe while operating a motor vehicle, who is unable to read and understand simple English used in highway signs, or who holds a suspended or revoked license from another state. While reduced vision may make someone unsafe to operate a motor vehicle, vision was not specifically listed as a reason to not issue a driver’s license to an individual. However, as of January 1, 2001, the law was amended to say "The department shall not issue a driver’s license to, or renew a driver’s license of, any person: whose best corrected visual acuity is 20/200 or worse in that person’s better eye, as verified by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. No person may use a bioptic telescope or similar lens to meet the 20/200 visual acuity standards."
CASE REPORT(S). HH, a 37 year-old Caucasian female with Stargardt’s disease, is an established bioptic driver with a spotless driving record and stable vision. RV, a 19 year-old Caucasian male with albinism, is currently receiving some legal blindness benefits but has never driven but would like to pursue the possibility. SB, a 33 year-old Asian female with congenital Rubella syndrome, had always dreamed of driving but had not considered it until recently.
CONCLUSIONS. The new law is making it illegal for HH to drive because she has 20/200 acuity. This is in spite of her clean driving record. For RV the new law poses a quandary because his acuity is 20/125 with a Bailey-Lovie chart but 20/200 with a more typical Snellen chart. Choosing which acuity to report will determine whether RV is free to pursue driving or if he is to remain legally blind and be unable to drive under current California law. The question RV must answer is "Do the benefits of legal blindness outweigh the benefits of being able to drive?" The new law prevents SB from driving, even with a bioptic telescope, because her best corrected visual acuity is 20/200.