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California Driver’s License Vision Requirements

driver with driver's license

There are many components to obtaining a California driver’s license, including passing a knowledge test, a driving test, and a vision test. You can and should study for the knowledge test and practice for the driving test, but there is not much you can do in the way of preparing for the vision exam. Good vision is critical to safe driving, and drivers who don’t wear corrective lenses when they are supposed to could be liable for causing a crash through their negligence. Here is a look at the vision requirements for a driver’s license in California. If you’ve been injured in a Southern California traffic accident in Los Angeles or the Antelope Valley because of the negligence of the other driver, call a skilled and knowledgeable Palmdale car crash lawyer at the Kistler Law Firm for immediate assistance.

A Good Look at the California Driver’s License Eye Test

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is authorized to test all applicants’ vision under the authority of California Vehicle Code (CVC) §12804.9(a)(1)(E). The DMV’s screening standard is 20/40 vision with both eyes tested together, as well as 20/40 in one eye and at least 20/70 in the other eye. “20/40” means you can see objects at 20 feet of distance that a young, healthy person could perceive from 40 feet away.

If you’ve ever had your vision tested, you’ll know what to expect at the DMV. The driver’s license vision examiner will have you read a line from a standard Snellen eye chart, first reading one line with both eyes open, then reading another line with each eye individually. If you already have a driver’s license that is restricted for corrective lenses, then you can take this test without removing your eyeglasses or contact lenses. If your license is not currently restricted, you can remove your glasses for the test if you desire, and if you pass, then you won’t get a restriction on your license. If you are wearing contacts, you have the option to remove the contacts or keep them in for the test. If you keep them in, your license will be restricted for corrective lenses.

If you have trouble reading the eye chart, then it’s off to the vision testing machine to test your distance vision. Here you will again read lines of letters with both eyes and each eye individually. You could also be referred to a vision specialist for further testing.

Anyone who applies for an original or renewal driver’s license must also meet the department’s visual acuity (vision) screening standard. According to CVC §12805(b), you must be able to pass a vision test, with or without corrective lenses, with visual acuity better than 20/200 in at least one eye without the use of a bioptic telescopic lens or similar bioptic device. You cannot get licensed without meeting this standard.

You only need to meet this visual acuity standard in your better eye as best corrected, but without using bioptic telescopic or similar lenses. These are special glasses with miniature telescopes affixed to the lenses that are specially designed for the low-vision impaired, such as persons with macular degeneration.

Visual acuity is the ability to see items clearly and sharply and recognize small details. Visual acuity is essential to spot road signs, objects in the road, and other vehicles, even in a low-contrast background, such as a motorcyclist wearing dark clothing at night.

Depending on your performance during the visual exam, you could be granted a license with restrictions, with no restrictions, or you could be denied a license altogether. In addition to having your license restricted to wearing corrective lenses, other restrictions are possible as well, such as being restricted to driving during daylight hours only, based on problems with night vision or glare resistance and glare recovery. A license can also be issued for a limited term of one or two years instead of the regular full five-year term.

Good Vision Matters

A 2017 Iranian study on Vision Disorders in Drivers Involved in Traffic Accidents was conducted to investigate the visual performance of drivers involved in crashes and was published in the Journal of Ophthalmic Vision & Research. This study asserted that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among individuals under 40 and the third leading cause of death for all age groups. The study found that 8.2% of drivers involved in crashes had known ocular diseases, including cataracts and diabetic retinopathy, which the study noted are the major causes of visual impairment worldwide. The study also found that 17% of crash-involved drivers had visual field vision below the minimum standard, and another 15.8% possessed three-dimensional vision lower than the minimum standard.

If an individual was involved in a crash while not wearing corrective lenses on a restricted license, that fact could be used as evidence of negligence to prove the driver was at fault. If the other driver was primarily at-fault, the failure of the accident victim to wear required corrective lenses could also serve as evidence of comparative negligence, resulting in a proportionate reduction in any damages award they might recover in an insurance settlement or civil lawsuit.

If you have been injured in a car, truck or motorcycle crash in the Antelope Valley, call the Kistler Law Firm at 661-206-6990 for a free consultation with a skilled and knowledgeable Palmdale car accident lawyer.

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