People who apply for a California driver's license or renewal must meet certain minimum vision requirements. Initially, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will test to see if a driver can meet its “visual acuity” screening standard. The DMV's vision screening standard is:
- 20/40 or better with both eyes tested together, and
- 20/40 or better in one eye and at least 20/70 in the other eye.
When being tested at the DMV, a driver will first be asked to read an eye chart. The driver may wear corrective lenses (glasses or contacts) during this and all other vision tests.
If the driver has difficulty reading the eye chart, the driver will be tested for distance vision on a vision testing machine.
What happens if I don't meet the DMV's vision screening standard?
Failure to meet the DMV's vision screen standard does NOT mean the driver will automatically be denied a license.
Instead, the driver will be given a Report of Vision Examination (DL 62) form for his or her eye doctor to complete and sign. The driver will then return to the DMV with the form for further evaluation.
Factors the DMV will take into account include:
- The severity of the driver's vision condition;
- How the condition affects the driver's central and side vision;
- Whether the condition affects one or both eyes;
- Whether the condition can be corrected by glasses, contact lenses, or surgery; and
- Whether the vision condition will get worse.
During this second (or subsequent) DMV visit, the driver's vision will be retested. The driver will also need to take a driving test to show the DMV that he/she can compensate for any vision loss and still drive safely.
What are the possible outcomes of a California DMV vision evaluation?
Possible outcomes of the DMV evaluation and driving test include:
- Issuance of a regular (unrestricted) driver's license for the full five-year term;
- Issuance of a restricted license, or
- Denial of a license.
Common restrictions the DMV may impose include:
- Requiring the driver to wear corrective lenses;
- Restricting where and/or when the driver may drive (for instance, during daylight hours only), and/or
- Issuing a license for a shorter term (i.e., one or two years instead of the usual five).
Minimum visual acuity standard
One last requirement driver's license applicants should keep in mind is California's “minimum visual acuity” standard. The DMV defines “visual acuity” as “a person's ability to see items clearly and sharply and to recognize small details.”
Under California law, a driver must have a minimum visual acuity of at least 20/200 in one eye, with or without correction.
Meeting the minimum visual acuity standard does not mean a driver will be approved to drive in California. Rather it means that anyone who cannot meet this standard is prohibited from getting a license, regardless of whether he/she would be able to pass a driving test.
Can I appeal the DMV's decision?
Yes. Drivers who believe they were unfairly denied a license due to their vision can appeal the decision.
It can be helpful to have a lawyer familiar with DMV hearings help you prepare your appeal.