Bioptic Telescopes Meet the Needs of Drivers with Moderate Visual Acuity Loss

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (Impact Factor: 3.4). 02/2005; 46(1):66-74. DOI: 10.1167/iovs.04-0271
Source: PubMed


Visually impaired people are permitted to use bioptic telescopes for driving in many states in the United States. However, it has been suggested that the telescope is used only to meet the visual acuity criteria for licensure. In this study, a survey was used to establish the extent to which bioptic telescopes are used by and meet the driving needs of people with moderately reduced visual acuity.
A cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of 58 bioptic drivers was administered by telephone interview. Bioptic telescope usage patterns were quantified with questions designed specifically for the study. Driving patterns were quantified by use of the Driving Habits Questionnaire. Subjects were recruited from four sources across the United States to ensure a range of bioptic training and driving experience.
The majority (74%) rated the bioptic telescope as very helpful, and almost all (90%) would continue to use it for driving, even if it were not required for driving licensure; however, only 62% reported always wearing the bioptic when driving. Subjects had relatively unrestricted driving habits, driving a mean of 222 +/- 211 miles per week, and 85% aged < or =65 years drove to work. With the exception of driving in rain, in bright sunlight, and at night, there was little difficulty with driving in a variety of situations, and levels of driving avoidance due to vision impairment were low (<10%).
The bioptic telescope met the (self-reported) driving needs of the majority of visually impaired drivers in this survey and was found to be a useful aid for tasks requiring resolution of detail.

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    ABSTRACT: riving by visually impaired people using bioptic telescopes is permitted in 43 states, yet their use remains controversial. One of the concerns is that the ring scotoma (blind area caused by the telescope magnification) may block the field-of-view, impacting detection of potential hazards when looking through the telescope. We evaluated the ability of the non-telescope eye to detect hazards in the field-of-view covered by the ring scotoma. Three participants watched a series of 54 real world driving videos that included 45 potential hazardous events and pressed a button as soon as a hazard was detected, in three conditions: just watching the videos, and while performing a reading task without or with a bioptic telescope. Results showed that all participants had either reduced detection rates or increased reaction times to hazards when performing the reading task with a bioptic telescope. These preliminary results suggest that attention demanding tasks and viewing through the telescope might impair hazard detection ability. Additional study is needed to fully understand the safety of bioptic driving.
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    • "Users may be particularly motivated to state how useful they are given that their licensure depends on their use of BTS when driving. Slightly over half report they wear BTS when driving (Bowers et al., 2005b), but once again there are no objective data to confirm self-reports. It remains to be determined to what extent BTS drivers actually wear and use BTS when driving and in what driving scenarios BTS are helpful from driver performance and safety perspectives. "
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    • "Although data on the ages of those who use bioptics for driving are limited, the surveys that have been conducted (Bowers et al., 2005; Park, Unatin, & Park, 1995) have suggested that the vast majority of bioptic drivers are not older adults with AMD, but young and middle-aged adults with earlyonset retinal degenerations. Clinical anecdotes are consistent with this finding. "
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