New driver, blind in one eye: suggestions for vehicles and safety?

I am one of those few souls in this country who–believe it or not–have NEVER owned an automobile of any kind! (I took Driver’s Ed in high school, but my father could not afford insurance, so I never did any real driving to speak of.)

Fast forward to 2018. I am now 65 and retired. I am blind in my left eye due to a totally detached retina. My right eye, though, is in good shape, and my eye doctor has assured me that my vision is more sufficient to enable me to drive if I wish to do so.

The problem is that, since it has been so long since I have even tried to drive, I would need (and want!) to take a driving refresher course. Assuming that I pass the course and get a driver’s license again, since my left eye is basically shut down, what modifications, if any, would I need to drive as safely as possible?

I already know that I wouldn’t be driving all that much–primarily to and from the store (particularly in bad weather!), to church on the weekends, and one or two long-distance trips (circa 200 to 500 miles) each year.

As you might expect, I’m on a fixed income, so I’m certainly not in the market for anything like a Trans Am Firehawk! Rather, I’d like a cube-shaped model with an automatic transmission. (Remember the Nash Metropolitan? Something like that would be my ideal, but of course they’ve been out of production for over 50 years!) As a result, I’m looking at models such as the Nissan Cube and the Scion xB, both of which are still around, although they’ve both been discontinued. What would you suggest? Thanks in advance for your time and advice!

First of all since you have never had vehicle insurance that and your age are going to work against you. Take the course first and the driving instructor will give you much better advice after observing you behind the wheel.
I think in your case you might consider what is called a Low speed vehicle for your daily needs if you don’t have to travel highways and rent a vehicle for those trips.

You’ve done OK for 65 years without a car, why do you want one now?

I’ll tell you a personal story to put things in perspective. My 62 year old mother decided to get a license after my father passed away. My mom’s left eye was very weak and she had no depth perception at all, so she had similar issues to you. While she successfully learned to drive and got her license, she was a danger to herself and others because she drove so poorly. Many accidents, mostly low speeds. The parents in the neighborhood call ME to have her license taken away because they were scared for their children. In my state it was nearly impossible to take someone’s license for any reason, let alone incompetence as a driver.

Do you really want to be in that situation?

I think Volvo has provided good advice.

A lot of vehicles these days have lane detection sensors. They are made to assist you in driving. This might be something you might want to get. Many cars well under $30 have this feature.

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Most states will require two outside mirrors. The good news is, most cars now come standard with outside mirrors on both sides. You shouldn’t really need anything more than that to account for the blindness in one eye. I’ve been driving like that for 50+ years…

Hasn’t that feature been required under federal regulations for a few decades?

The Subaru Forester has been top rated by CU for older people, because of ease of entry, and good visibility. It is also squarish and relatively low priced.

Luckily I bought mine in 2015 before they switched to the common (and difficult to use) touch screen control.

Most new cars have poor visibility in the back, due to style issues.

Parenthetically, the latest issue of Scientific America has an editorial on touch screen controls. Bottom line, it rates them terrible.

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Mike, I know things in NH tend to be a little cheaper than MA, but that is a bit extreme.

OOPs…Forgot the K.


When I renewed my license last year, they do a peripheral vision check as part of the eye test. That plus depth perception. I think in Minnesota it doesn’t disqualify but is a noted on the license and there may be a restriction. Yeah, you really really need to take a full driver’s training course after getting your permit, then take the test. Much has changed over the past 50 years with cars and rules of the road.

When I was a teenager though, my first insurance premium was $26. I paid it, my dad didn’t. I guess it just depend on how much someone wants to drive or not.

A friend of mine lost an eye when he was young. When he was old enough to drive he managed to get his license but it was difficult to do.

It took him a long time to master because it threw his depth perception off along with the peripheral vision issue… I wonder if this is going to be a bigger issue for you due to your age.

I agree with MikeInNH. I think it would be ideal for you to have a blind spot monitor, parking distance sensors, and a rear cross-traffic monitor to help make up for your limitations.

Yeah technology is going to help but at 65 years old, the main road block will be learning how to drive and getting a license.

The 2018 Toyota Yaris and Corolla IM have the pre-collision system, lane departure alert, and automatic high beams. More expensive Toyotas have more sophisticated systems.

I have been near blind in one eye since birth and only had a problem once if FL. They did not want to let me transfer my drivers license, as their interpretation was I was legally blind. They finally relented when I brought up the point that I have FL plates, but if I get pulled over and the officer asks why i still have a ND license I will say because FL will not give me one.

I learned how to live with one eye and figure depth perception differently than others I imagine. Known size and appearance of an object is how it seems to me.

How long have you been with one eye OP, Long enough to feel comfortable with depth perception. Hey if I can do it anyone can and my safety record is not out of norm with most people.

I was required for a few states to have a driver side rear view mirror, as my right eye is the bad one, that seems to have gone away.

I agree with the other posters lane departure alerts and sensors for cars when changing lanes are a good idea for anyone.

A drivers ed class would be an excellent testing ground to see how comfortable you will be with driving.

Best Wishes.
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I’m not sure if, or how long, having two outside mirrors as standard equipment has been required by federal regulations but that’s irrelevant. I’m referencing a restriction on your driver’s license issued by the state. If you drive around with one missing, it will be an equipment violation. If I get caught doing the same, I’m in violation of my driver’s license restriction and it won’t end up quite so simple as a fix it ticket…

Remember that your peripheral vision to the left is half of what it is to the right. Quickly get used to rotating your head more to the left as you scan the road.

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I worked with 2 Tractor Trailer driver who were blind in one eye. They were city drivers so had to back into tight spots and stop without hitting things. They both drove quite well and had long careers. They were cousins who both had a congenital defect in one eye. They had another cousin who took the physicals for all of them because you need good vision in both eyes to pass a DOT physical. At least in ny state 20/40 in one eye is enough to get a car license. I have seen longer rear view mirrors with angled ends and suggest you get one. If money is tight and you want a boxy little car, try out a Kis Soul.

Happy motoring!

Are you saying they fudged, and had the cousin take the physicals, in their stead . . . ?!

Or are you saying the cousin was a doctor and administered the physicals?

I have no reason to doubt that these cousins were good drivers, but conducting funny business to pass a physical to obtain/keep your license isn’t something I would recommend. I’m not implying that you recommend or condone this behaviour . . . I’m just saying that I personally would not