Transportation & Vehicle Safety Policy

Looking Beyond Bioptic Telescopes

Wilkinson, M.E.; McGehee, D.V.
07/2019

Abstract

Research Brief 

July 2019 

First reportedly used for driving in 1970, bioptic telescopes aid drivers with visual impairments in reading street signs while hopefully still maintaining awareness of the environment around them. Bioptic telescope proponents assert that these devices are only used for a small percentage of driving time (5-10%) for wayfinding tasks1,2 such as reading street signs. Currently, there are several thousand drivers with visual impairments in the US using bioptic telescopes, though the exact number is unknown. 

As driving culture and technologies change, our laws and policies may also need to evolve. The vast majority of states require the use of a bioptic telescope for individuals with low vision to qualify for driving privileges. But since using bioptic telescopes while driving was introduced half a century ago, new technologies have been developed to decrease visual distraction for drivers. To improve safety for everyone on our roadways, more research is needed into bioptic telescope alternatives and state laws, as well as reexamining policies. 

Citation

Wilkinson ME, McGehee DV. Looking Beyond Bioptic Telescopes. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Public Polic Center; 2019.