Nystagmus and Driving

This may be one of the most sensitive topics for people with nystagmus. As you can imagine, anything that affects your vision may affect your ability to operate a vehicle. Let’s talk about driving and nystagmus in general, and then I’ll tell you a little more about my experiences.

Can people with Nystagmus drive?

It depends on three things:

  1. How extreme the nystagmus is. It may be that a shifty eyed person needs to get a note from their optometrist/ophthalmologist saying that it is safe for them to drive.
  2. General vision. Many times nystagmus is accompanied by low vision. A person with nystagmus will need to take the same eye exam at the DMV as any other person would do. This test can be taken with glasses on, but that will mean that the driver would need to wear the glasses at all times while driving.
  3. Where the person lives. It’s my understanding that in the UK, the driving requirements are much stricter than they are here in the US, and it’s much more difficult for people with nystagmus to get a license there. Also, every state in the US has different driving requirements.

Do I Drive?

No, I do not. Can I drive? Technically, yes. In the past I have gotten my permit, and have driven a great deal. However, I have never gotten my license. Just because I can drive does not mean that I am comfortable driving. Because of the way my particular nystagmus reacts to movement, fast glances and checking blind spots are challenging. I’ve been in some close calls before. My worst nightmare is not seeing someone in time, making a movement, and then getting into a huge accident on a freeway that kills somebody.

So, for this reason (and others not having to do with nystagmus) I have chosen not to drive for the moment. This may change someday, especially if I have kids and need to drive them around. But even if I do get my license, I will probably keep driving at a minimum

Does not driving affect my life?

Yes, it does. This is probably the single greatest nystagmus-related challenge for my personal life. I live in Los Angeles, which is probably one of the biggest pro-driving societies in the world. Not driving can be seen as being irresponsible. It also means that the public transportation system is often times lacking. In order to have any kind of personal life, I depend on getting rides from other people. My friends have been great about this, but I know that sometimes it can be frustrating for other people. I try to pitch in for gas if I’m being toted around a lot.

I do have a fantastic boyfriend who is very understanding about my not driving. I won’t lie though; it has come up as an issue. I can imagine how frustrating it is when there is a family event at his house that he has to pick me up and drive me back for. It also affects how much he can drink when we go out, which isn’t fair to him. He is very kind about it, and has let me taken my time with the driving issue. He never complains to me, and for most of the time, it’s not a problem. But I can see that it’s frustrating sometimes. I struggle with a lot of guilt about this.

As far as work goes, luckily, I work just blocks away from my house, so I have avoided the challenge of getting to work for now. Whew!

So yes, driving is an issue all shifty-eyed people have to deal with. It’s a sensitive topic. No body likes to think they can’t do something simply because of the way they were born. We appreciate all the understanding and shifty-eyed love from all the “normal” sighted folks out there 🙂

xoxo

Jo

*** (Hey all, there are updates to my driving journey here and here. It’s good news!) ***

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Welcome to the Shifty Eyes blog!

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Helloooo out there! I’m Jo, the founder and sole blogger (so far) for the Shifty Eyes blog.

A bit about me:

You can always check out my About page, but for those who don’t feel like clicking the link, I’ll just tell you again. I’m a young person who is trying to navigate through newly acquired adulthood. By trade I’m a corporate paralegal, by night I’m a superhero. I also happen to live with a condition called Nystagmus.

Ok, I’m not really a superhero.

A bit about Nystagmus:

The most basic definition is “involuntary eye movement.” There are many different forms of Nystagmus, of which I will not go into great detail here. Mine is called “Congenital Nystagmus” which is a fancy term that means I’ve had it since I was born or shortly after. My particular eye movements are pendular; they move in a smooth horizontal motion, very quickly back and forth. The condition is permanent. There is currently no cure or even effective treatment. It’s difficult to explain Nystagmus and what it’s like to live with it in a paragraph, which is why I have dedicated a whole blog to this particular aspect of my life.

Why a blog?

Turns out, there’s not a lot of shifty-eyed love out there. Only in the past 15 or so years have there been any organized support or information out there for people living with Nystagmus and their loved ones. While these organizations are great when it comes to learning about the physical condition, there is not a lot out there that explains what it’s like to live day to day. Most shifty-eyed people live their entire lives without meeting anyone else who knows what it’s like.

This blog is for all of those people who have Nystagmus but who don’t know anyone else going through the same experiences. It’s also for parents of children with Nystagmus who want to know what it’s like to grow up with the condition. And for everyone else out there, who knows? You may know and love someone with shifty eyes, or you may in the future. I’ll probably also insert my opinions about life and the world in general here and there, because hey, it’s my blog.

xoxo

Jo