UPDATES AND CURRENT NEWS
State of Play in Australia
Currently in Australia, there is no national policy on the use of bioptics for driving. There is evidence that people have been using biopics to drive in Australia since at least the 1980s.
In 2012, a paragraph about bioptic driving was introduced into the national legislation Assessing Fitness to Drive Guidelines. Owned jointly by the National Transport Commission (NTC) and Austroads, each state and territory licensing authority refers to these guidelines in their respective legislation for use by medical professionals. These guidelines are the gateway for potential bioptic drivers to learn of current restrictions for licensure and the medical community to assess fitness to drive.
The recent national review of these guidelines proposed a change to that paragraph about bioptic driving. Through lobbying by advocates for bioptic driving the text was reverted to the original 2012 text. See below Recent News for details. The current wording in the guidelines allows for a person who's visual acuity is less than 6/12 to present to an expert in the use of bioptic devices to be assessed as a candidate for bioptic driving.
Advocates for bioptic driving now have a window of opportunity leading up to the next national review of the guidelines expected to occur around late 2018. During this time there is a need to promote and develop supply and demand side policy, support and activities to present to government the viability of bioptic driving for the Australian context.
On the demand side more people need to be assessed as a suitable candidate and presenting to state and territory licensing authorities to apply for a conditional licence. This website will grow to provide more stories about success and how candidates overcome barriers to achieve driving success.
On the supply side, there is need to develop a bioptic driving standard within the Assessing Fitness to Drive Guidelines to give professionals consistent and informed advice on how to assess a suitable candidate. Further, both the eye sight medical community and the government officials developing and implementing policy must be made aware of the evidence base both in Australia and internationally about the safety and application of bioptic driving.
Australian Optometrist and expert in the use of bioptic devices Dr Sharon Oberstein says her young patient's vision could be corrected to allow safe vision for driving using a bioptic telescope.
Council of Australian Governments approve reversion of wording for bioptic telescope in assessment guidelines: August 1, 2017
By National Transport Commission and Austroads
This corrigendum sets out corrections to Assessing Fitness to Drive which was published by the National Transport Commission and Austroads in 2016.
Amendment 2: Correction relating to use of telescopic lenses for driving
In Part B.10, on page 127, OMIT:
10.2.7 Telescopic lenses (bioptic telescopes) and electronic aids)
These devices may improve acuity at the cost of visual field. They are not an acceptable aid to meet the standards.
10.2.7 Telescopic lenses (bioptic telescopes) and electronic aids}
These devices are becoming available in Australia. At present there is little information on the safety or otherwise of drivers using these devices. In particular, their use may reduce visual perception in the periphery. No standards are set but it is recommended that drivers who wish to use these devices be individually assessed by an ophthalmologist/optometrist with expertise in the use of these devices.
A win for drivers with central vision loss: June 13, 2017
By Vision2020 - www.vision2020australia.org.au
A change to the Assessing Fitness to Drive (AFTD) guidelines that left a number of Australians with central vision loss unable to a obtain licence, or fearful of losing their right to drive, is set to be reversed.
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January 06, 2016
Telescopes to aid low vision drivers By Menzies Foundation
Bioptic telescopes, or spectacles which have a small device attached to greatly magnify long-distance vision, are a key tool in helping people with central vision impairment to drive. Unfortunately for some of the 180,000 Australians suffering from low vision, they’re not included in the standard guidelines for conditional driving licences in Australia.
August 21, 2015
Telescope helps vision-impaired drivers get behind the wheel By Fran Molloy
An estimated 180,000 Australians have low vision and as diabetes rates climb, this number is likely to increase. Oberstein's PhD research was sparked by the case of a 16-year old patient who had Stargardt disease (which causes loss of central vision), and wanted to learn to drive but could not decipher the standard visual acuity chart used to test vision.
June 06, 2014
A Small Device Helps Severely Nearsighted Drivers Hit The Road By NPR
In nearly every state, visually impaired people now can drive with the aid of the bioptic telescope, a small black box that attaches to glasses. That's about 10,000 people, according to one estimate, and the number is growing as more people learn about the technology.
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