U.S. Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) Driving Laws for People with Visual Impairment In Tennessee

The following article is a general overview of the laws for driving a motor vehicle in the state of Tennessee, for those with visual impairments. Since these laws vary by state, always check with state laws to ensure that you understand them.

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U.S. Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) Driving Laws for People with Visual Impairment In Tennessee Optometrist

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Driving is one of those activities that are part of a normal daily routine for many people. For many low vision patients, the inability to drive represents a loss of independence which affects their quality of life. Fortunately, there is good news. While not every low vision person will be able to continue driving, many people are able to retain this ability with proper usage of interventions from a low vision optometrist. This may include the use of advanced optics such as bioptic telescopes, prisms,  filters, therapy, or rehabilitation.

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DMV Laws Are State Regulated

There are no U.S. federal laws regulating vision standards for licensed drivers. All U.S. states have their own DMV requirements for people with visual impairment. While state laws differ, they all require visual acuity testing to ensure that drivers have the ability to safely operate a non-commercial vehicle. Not all states require visual field tests to drive.

Always contact your state's DMV website for specific information. 

The LogMAR chart for visual acuity is deemed more accurate today than the Snellen chart. Most states require a minimum standard, also known as "Best Corrected Vision Acuity (BCVA)", of 20/40. This means that the standard can be reached with corrective lenses.

What Are The Laws for Driving With Visual Impairment In Tennessee?

What Are The Laws for Driving With Visual Impairment In Tennessee?

Driving Laws In Tennessee

Low Vision Guidelines (Bioptic Lens and/or Telescopic Lens Wearer)Applicants for Class D, PD, or H licenses who are handicapped by low vision acuity, but who otherwise qualify for a driving privilege, may be licensed under the following guidelines:

  • Qualifications: The applicant shall have acceptable mobility and shall be free of all mental impairments. 
  • Prior to application, the bioptic wearer shall complete training in driving with a bioptic telescopic lens(es) from a driving instructor certified in this field. 
  • The applicant shall have a visual acuity of at least 20/200 in both eyes with the best conventional non-telescopic corrective lens(es), and a full visual field. 
  • The central field vision loss shall not exceed five (5) degrees. The applicant’s visual acuity with the bioptic telescope shall be at least 20/60. 
  • The power of the bioptic telescope shall not exceed four power (4x). 
  • The bioptic telescopic lens(es) may be fit either monocularly or binocularly, but shall be located superior to the normal line of gaze. 
  • The applicant shall have a horizontal visual field diameter of no less than one hundred fifty (150) degrees without the use of field expanders. 
  • The applicant shall present a report on a form supplied by the department by an optometrist or ophthalmologist identified by a recognized professional organization as one especially qualified in the field of Low Vision care. 
Bioptic Certification Form

Bioptic Certification Form

The applicant shall present certification of having completed a certified driver training course completed while the applicant was wearing the bioptic telescopic lens(es). 

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Interventions For Drivers With Impaired Vision

In some instances, interventions for impairments, (either as part of a therapeutic program or with visual aids), may enable individuals to safely drive a vehicle within the parameters of state laws. Such interventions include the use of bioptic telescopes and lenses which enable drivers to magnify objects. Some states permit such devices, so you want to make sure that its usage accords with your state’s legal requirements. 


Bioptics Eyewear

These unique telescopic spectacles are used by drivers who require improved distance vision in states that permit bioptic usage. It enables people to switch between magnified and standard views, usually by adjusting focus from the upper part which features the mounted telescopes to the lower section called the “carriage” which provides standard vision. 

There are many versions of these glasses, from simple flip-top models where you can raise the telescopes, to automated focusing options. Depending on the eye disorder and level of severity, these glasses often provide the required improvement in vision which enables people to safely and legally drive a vehicle according to their state's DMV laws. U.S. states such as Tennessee permit the use of these glasses, provided that all of the additional criteria are met.

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Additional Information

Additional Information

The question of driving with vision impairment is not always easy. It requires careful consideration of the state’s legal requirements and the individual’s current visual acuity. It isn't always clear-cut, particularly in the case of elderly drivers where cessation of driving may have an adverse psychological effect on their quality of life. This is particularly so when they retain the overall skills and cognitive capability to drive. 

Naturally, while these issues require sensitivity, the overall concern of driver safety is the most critical factor to consider. All variables have to be weighed. Many people find that speaking with a low vision optometrist, a low vision occupational therapist,  family, and friends empowers them to find the proper solution. Some people are comfortable switching to licensed driver services, or having their friends drive them. 

There isn't a current federal U.S. standard to regulate driving for people with vision impairment. While all U.S. states test visual acuity with a LogMAR wall chart to ensure that drivers can safely operate a non-commercial vehicle, not all states require field tests to drive. Most states require a Best Corrected Vision Acuity (BCVA) of 20/40, which permits the use of corrective lenses to achieve the requisite level. In addition to satisfying minimum standards of acuity, drivers must be free of mental impairments that can affect their ability to drive. 

Not all low vision impairments require total cessation of driving. Depending upon the condition, our low vision optometrist may encourage a person to refrain from night-time driving, if the issue is primarily relegated to driving when it is dark outside. In such instances, the individual may be able to continue driving during daylight hours. In other instances, many drivers are able to continue to drive normally with the aid of prescribed visual aids, filters, anti reflective coatings or therapies from a low vision optometrist.

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Common Questions

Yes, individuals with vision in only one eye can legally drive in Tennessee, provided they meet specific vision requirements. A low vision exam may be required to evaluate visual acuity and field of vision. A low vision eye doctor or low vision optometrist will often be able to assist in evaluating whether an individual meets the necessary criteria. Adaptations and restrictions may apply depending on the circumstances.
In Tennessee, legal blindness is typically defined as having a visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in the better eye with corrective lenses or a visual field of 20 degrees or less. Consulting with a low vision optometrist or having a low vision exam can help clarify individual circumstances.
Legal blindness due to visual field loss is generally defined as a visual field of 20 degrees or less in the better eye. This narrow "tunnel vision" restricts the ability to see objects to the side while looking straight ahead. A low vision exam with an eye doctor specializing in this field can assess visual field loss.
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Contact your state's DMV to find out the precise laws governing your state, including those pertaining to testing standards and driver license renewals.If you have any questions about state driving laws please contact our low vision optometrist for guidance on the driving laws for the State of Tennessee.

In addition to meeting the minimum standards of visual acuity, speak with an optometrist to discuss the issue of driving with low vision. With proper interventions, many low vision patients can continue to drive safely without restrictions.

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