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Vision Correction for the Professional Driver

First, a disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I have had my CDL since 2003, though. Below is a system that I have developed over the years that works for me. If you have any serious questions, consult a medical professional.

When to Get New Glasses

I once made the mistake of going to a DOT physical with old prescription eyeglasses. I passed, but there was quite a bit of squinting.

You’ll want to go by your eye doctor’s direction, but I get my eyes examined every two years. If I wait more than two years, my eyes change a little too much for my glasses to be 100%. And, after two years of hard use, my glasses get scratched up.

I usually wait until my home state tells me it is time to renew my CDL medical certificate. I then get my eyes examined, get new glasses, and then go get my medical certificate. That way, I have fresh glasses when my vision is tested.

The Optometrist

The last time I had my eyes examined, it cost me $110. The price for the basic exam was $70, but I went to the doctor knowing that I was going to pay for a couple of extras, including a photograph of my retina (back of the eye). I had the exam done in a national big-box store’s eye center. Despite the informal surroundings, the doctor was professional and informative.

Pre-Existing Conditions

I have a family history of:

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • macular degeneration

Every time I go to see a doctor (any doctor), I tell the doctor these things. Knowing that there is a potential problem, the doctor will be extra careful during the exam.

Macular Degeneration

When the ophthalmologist uses the “rainbow-prism-thingy” (its official name) to look at the back of your lenses (checking for cataracts), he’ll adjust it to look at your retinas (checking for macular degeneration). It’s all part of the “look inside the eyeball” service. But you need to ask him or her to look for signs of macular degeneration, specifically.

Glaucoma

They still blast air on your eyeballs to check for glaucoma, but the machines are much better now. The puff of air is merely annoying, instead of terrifying.

PD

If you plan on getting your glasses online, which is much more common these days, in addition to a glasses prescription, you are going to need to know your Pupillary Distance (PD). The PD is either the distance (in mm) from each eye to the center of your face or the combined distance from the center of one eye to the other eye (in mm).

My PD is:

OD (Right eye) 34.5
OS (Left eye) 35.5
Or, a combined 70.0 mm

The PD is not part of the prescription. The optometrist will not measure your PD unless you specifically ask him or her. The PD is normally measured by the sales clerk who is fitting you for glasses, but if you buy your glasses online, there won’t be any clerk. This leads to guessing, so ask your optometrist to measure your PD.

Getting Glasses Online

I get my glasses from an online source. They are much cheaper than going into a local shop, even one at a large discount store. Recently, I bought three pairs of glasses for $203.59; this included shipping. All three pairs were bifocals and each pair had extra lens coatings. (For an extra $1.95, they printed “Bazinga®” on the inside of one of the sunglass legs.) My purchases were:

  1. Frameless/Titanium bifocal
  2. Semi-retro bifocal [80% grey (sunglasses) for driving]
  3. Granny glasses, bifocal (for another of my pursuits: stage work)

Most online companies also have many other styles available. My chosen company carries “art glasses” in a variety of whimsical styles and I also got a pair of them four years ago.

Additionally, you will probably see a line of “dirt-cheap” glasses for unheard-of prices, like $6.95 a pair. These are frequently not attractive and, in my opinion, are worth avoiding, unless you are financially desperate.

Your Prescription

Keep your current prescription accessible at all times. I keep a copy in the cloud, but storing a copy in your wallet is another option. You never know when you are going to need to order a replacement pair. A couple of years ago, I broke my sunglasses and ordered a new pair right away. They were in my mailbox before I got back from vacation.

And don’t discard old prescriptions when you receive a new one. Keep old prescriptions in a secure place, but not necessarily with you. Then, when you have your eyes examined, take your old prescription(s) with you. It will give your eye doctor information about your eyes’ performance over time.

My current prescription (as of 5/20/20) is:

RX Side SPH CYL AXIS Prism ADD
OD Right -2.25 -0.50 86 +2.50
OS Left -1.75 -0.25 121 +2.50

Table Gen chart here, please:

RX Side SPH CYL AXIS Prism ADD
OD Right -2.25 -0.50 86   +2.50
OS Left -1.75 -0.25 121   +2.50

My OD (right eye) has a correction of -2.25, because I am nearsighted. The astigmatism correction is -0.50 at 86°. My bifocal correction (reading) is +2.50.

My OS (left eye) has a correction of -1.75, because I am nearsighted. The astigmatism correction is -0.25 at 121°. My bifocal correction (reading) is +2.50.

Reading Books vs Computer Screens

Reading distance is either books or computer screens. Computer screens are farther away than books are. When you are younger, you can use one “ADD” (short for addition) for both. When you get older, you might need two pairs of bifocals, with two different ADDs for books and computers which is fine. Just get the optometrist to write two different prescriptions: one with an ADD for books and one for computer screens.

I, personally, don’t use glasses when I read a computer screen, so I avoid this problem. The downside is that the speedometer of my car is ever so slightly blurry. (I blame the car manufacturer for having blurry gauges.)

As a professional driver, you will spend hours staring out the windshield of your truck. Everything should be in focus—you don’t want eye strain. I hope this information helps you make productive decisions concerning your vision and its correction.

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