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Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil straightdope. Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks. My MIL is 83 and has macular degeneration. When we visited her at Christmas, she told us that she can only see to drive if it's clear, bright, and sunny out. On a recent afternoon, she was driving home in the rain and couldn't figure out where her lane was on a road she's driven for 13 years and hit the curb.
Her driver's license is up for renewal this year, and she failed the DMV vision test. You may have your vision test administered by a medical doctor, osteopathic physician, or an optometrist.
She's got an appointment next week, and I know she's going to try to persuade him to sign her off. And this terrifies me. Yes, the loss of independence is difficult and scary. It's no fun to acknowledge that you're too old to do things you used to do. It's not fair that some people have perfect vision into their 90s. BUT, it's not just about the individual driver - it's about everyone on the road.
And especially in a city that's known for its large population of retirees - you've got to be alert and able to function in traffic with others of varying reflexes and abilities. You've got to be able to SEE!!!!!! I hate that the DMV offers this option.
And I hate that my MIL is being so self-centered about this. I understand why she doesn't want to lose her license, but she refuses to consider that she may well cause an accident that hurts her, perhaps other occupants of her car, other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists My husband has tried to talk to her, but she's determined that she won't lose her license. We can only hope that her doctor does the right thing and refuses to approve her. And it's not like she'll be housebound.
But she's so stubborn! Someone please remind me of this when I should hang up my car keys. And if you drive in Florida, heaven help you. Macular degeneration. As time goes on she will have less and less central vision, leaving her only with blurring, indistinct peripheral vision. This is not a condition that allows the sufferer to drive safely except in the very earliest stages of the deterioration.
It seems OP's MIL is struggling with this condition and resistant to giving up her driver's license even though she is visually impaired and no longer safe on the road.
I feel your pain. My dad is thankfully driving a lot less these days, but I wish he weren't driving at all. They've moved into a senior living community now and I really, really hope they'll finally go down to one car.
I don't get it. I think her complaint is that the state allows a driver's regular doctor to do the exam, which could be open to abuse. I would hope the MIL's doctor takes the test seriously, and reports the results accurately. Every time I've been eye-tested for a license, it's been done right there at the DMV or whatever. Does Florida not do this?
Broomstick, you got it right. She really and truly should not be driving. Any place she needs to go is along a major thoroughfare, so lots of traffic and things happening fast - NOT a situation where you hope you can see what's going on. And I think back about 30 years when I was riding with my uncle who was elderly and still driving, totally oblivious to other cars on the road - those are the sorts of drivers in her area. My MIL is a very sweet lady and she'd be crushed if she hurt anyone, but she doesn't want to give up her license and she's convinced she can still handle it.
The only hope is the doctor. We're miles away, so we can't offer to be her taxi service, even if she'd accept such an offer. It's frustrating and terrifying to know that the state would make it possible for someone like her to keep driving. Frank - she was tested at the DMV and failed. They gave her a form to take to the doctor and if he blesses it, she gets to keep her license for 6 more years.
I don't know why they do that, especially considering all the retirees in FL I don't know. But it's not right. I've got similar issues with my dad. Not so much his vision as his overall health, and at times, lack of judgment. He's mids now and really has no business driving a car, but he insisted on renewing his license recently.
His stated reason was so that he could drive in an "emergency". I think the real reason is more of a man thing. Depending on others is emasculating to a certain extent. Even though he knows he's not a good driver, he still needs to feel like he can do it. I sure hope her doctor takes it seriously and doesn't fudge the results.
Is there any liability for him if he clears her to drive and then she hurts someone in an accident? I missed that in the OP, sorry. Maybe they're trying to force the person into having a regular eye doctor say that it's not safe to continue driving. Where they might not believe the DMV, they'd have to believe their own doctor. As I see it the DMV test is a very basic report of refractive visual acuity and field of vision, and IMO it makes sense to refer someone for a more thorough examination of why they failed.
True, the second-opinion form does not include a box for a flat-out "take this person's license and issue them a cane and dog on the spot" instruction but one should imagine that if the doc checks the boxes to indicate irreversible impairment, that would mean you're out of a license.
Perhaps if it had to be before a physician of the DMV's choosing and payroll she'd feel better about it. Granted, I'm getting much of the story second hand, but as I understand it, my MIL is going to her eye doctor, who I assume is a licensed eye specialist as specified in the section I quoted. I think what I find most aggravating is that she knows that she has trouble seeing, she's told us as much, but she still wants to keep her license.
I hate that the system might allow it, and I hate even more that an otherwise smart, sensible woman is being so pigheaded about it. Ultimately, I hate that this could lead to injury or worse. The problem here is that it's Florida aka God's waiting room.
Someone will go into business getting those forms filled out for old blind people. It doesn't have to be a doctor, they'll just use a legitimate doctors credentials, or it will be a doctor who couldn't make money fast enough from medicaire fraud. Call the eye doctor and let him know that you'll be giving HIS name and information to the attorneys of anybody she hurts.
Should do it. I have empathy. Hey, wait a minute Broomstick, aren't you an airplane pilot? Yes, yes I am and because I couldn't completely pass the standard vision test for a private pilot license I was required to go for additional testing.
The purpose was to determine that my eyes were healthy, not deteriorating or diseased, and my deficiencies would not interfere with safety. I won't ever fly for the airlines, but for the type of flying I do the FAA has declared me safe. For a couple of months I was restricted to daytime only flying until I could schedule the testing and pass it.
True, being denied a pilot's license is not quite the same as being denied a driver's license but there is some similarity. It is also unlikely I'd ever be able to get a commercial driver's license, which isn't a huge handicap but just as well I never had any ambition to be a trucker or limo or cab driver. I do have concerns that as I get older my vision might deteriorate faster than average, and I've always been at a significantly higher than normal risk for things like a detached retina so it's in the back of my mind that one day I might no longer be allowed to drive a car, and it might happen sooner rather than later for me.
You see, the DMV test is a screening test. It's intended to flag people who have a problem or issue. The additional testing required is to further refine knowledge about what, exactly, is going on. For example, if someone is blind in one eye they won't pass the normal DMV test but should be able to pass with the additional testing. In some cases a one-eyed driver might be required to mount larger than normal or additional mirrors on his or her car to aid them in minimizing blind spots.
Some people have night vision problems and are restricted to daytime driving. And so on. The additional testing is to separate those with problems but who are still safe to drive from those who really shouldn't be behind the wheel.
That means there is a strong possibility your MIL won't pass the additional testing. You might want to brace yourself for that. Threads like this make my mother and aunts so glad my grandmother, their mother, in her mid-eighties, one day said "I shouldn't be driving anymore" and didn't. She had lots of family to take her anywhere. If I was the doctor and got that call, I'd probably just cancel your mom's appointment and stop seeing her. I know I have malpractice insurance, but I'd have no interest in dealing with patients like that, sorry.
Then, not only will your mom lose her regular eye doctor, but she'll realize how easy it is to just start doctor shopping until she finds one that'll sign off on the report. She could do that anyways, but maybe she won't think of it. Perhaps a better thing to do would be to go with her to the appointment and at some point pull the doctor off to the side, remind him about the Macular Degeneration and tell him what she said about not being able to see at night.
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