The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Medical Review Board is recommending the enforcement of stricter standards for truck drivers with vision loss. The five-member panel of physicians suggests an alternative vision standard for truck drivers who suffer from vision loss in one eye.
Part of the proposed alternative vision standard is an increase of the current field of vision requirement from 70 degrees to 120 degrees. The other part of the proposed alternative vision standard includes the requirement for drivers to have at least 20/40 vision in the better eye, the ability to recognize the colors associated with traffic signals and a stable vision deficiency.
The alternative standard was introduced at a rulemaking proposal that was opened for public comment in January. The provisions were intended to allow those with vision loss in one eye who meet the new standard to be deemed eligible to operate a commercial motor vehicle without having to apply for an exemption through the FMCSA.
The rulemaking proposed 69 comments, one of which included a recommendation from the health care company Concentra to tighten the original field of vision requirement. The medical review board supported the recommendation given by Concentra and incorporated it into its review of the proposed rule that was submitted to the agency in July. Beginning Tuesday, the FMCSA is opening a 30 day comment period to give the public a chance to respond to the medical review board’s recommendations.
Do truckers need better eyesight than other drivers?
Legally, no – but worsening eyesight may cost them their CDL more easily than an average driver would lose a driver’s license.
Truck drivers must be able to operate a commercial vehicle with precision, safety, and continued awareness of their surroundings. To accomplish these tasks, truck drivers must be able to read text from a distance, identify different colors, and have a healthy range of vision.
Having a healthy range of vision means having the ability to expand one’s vision from at least 70 degrees to each side, or having peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is an important visual trait to possess when driving, as all drivers use peripheral vision to either switch lanes safely or become aware of vehicles either to the left or right of them. Truck drivers whose vision cannot extend to at least 70 degrees to each side may suffer from a condition known as tunnel vision.
What is tunnel vision?
Tunnel vision is the loss of peripheral vision. When a truck driver suffers from tunnel vision, the truck driver is incapable of seeing what is going on to the side of them. They can only notice what is going on in front of them. The degree of the loss of peripheral vision can be different for each individual; however, many people who experience tunnel vision have compared the experience to traveling the world through a tube. Tunnel vision can either occur as a result of damage to the optic nerve or happen suddenly without cause, increasing the possibility of a dangerous trucking accident.
What are some of the common causes of tunnel vision?
Truck drivers can experience tunnel vision for many reasons. Some of the common causes for tunnel vision involve conditions such as glaucoma, migraines, concussions, excessive alcohol consumption, and cataracts. The symptoms of each of these conditions can impact vision in a negative way.
Glaucoma is a condition that is caused by increased pressure in the eye that ultimately damages the optic nerve. It is a condition that is known as the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. People who suffer from glaucoma experience symptoms such as severe pain around the eye, red eyes, or cloudiness of vision.
Cataract is another eye condition that happens when the clear lens of the eye becomes clouded. In fact, there is a type of cataract known as a nuclear cataract that forms in the center of the lens and causes damage to the edges of the lens, which causes peripheral vision issues.
Although many people find migraines to be essentially painless, there are migraines known as ocular migraines that cause some people to see halos appearing around objects and affect one’s peripheral vision. Similar to ocular migraines, the symptoms of concussions can cause dizziness and disturbances in peripheral vision. Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause disturbances in peripheral vision.
What are some of the dangers of driving with tunnel vision?
Peripheral vision is very important for Oklahoma City truck drivers to notice who or what is around them at all times. When truck drivers suffer from tunnel vision, the loss of peripheral vision can affect a truck driver’s ability to safely operate the commercial vehicle. Truck drivers may fail to notice the vehicles passing either to the left or right of them, leading to a deadly trucking accident. Truck drivers may fail to recognize the changing traffic conditions when coming across a construction area and fail to react appropriately. The truck driver may even fail to notice the different warning lights on the dashboard, leading to potential mechanical breakdown.
What are some conditions that make tunnel vision worse for truck drivers?
Even though tunnel vision can result from several medical conditions, there are some external factors that can make tunnel vision worse for the truck driver. Some of these conditions involve nighttime driving and extreme stress. When a truck driver drives at night, there is an increased stress on the eyes that can make a truck driver’s vision even more sensitive. Driving under extreme stress can also affect a truck driver’s peripheral vision. Sometimes the truck driver may ignore the physical signs that their body is telling them and continue to drive to complete their driving shift or deliver cargo by a certain deadline.
Unfortunately, due to the size and weight of large trucks, truck accidents often cause significant damages, including serious injuries and temporary or permanent disabilities. At Cunningham & Mears, we work hard to get you full and fair compensation for all your injuries and harm. To learn more about our truck accident representation, contact us in OKC via our online form or call (405) 232-1212 today for a free initial consultation.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More