On the Road! Need A DMV Eye Exam?

Q. Specifically, how does the Department of Motor Vehicles determine whether an applicant for a driver’s license actually passes the vision test? Is the test totally objective?

“I never had a problem passing the eye test at a DMV office,” the local resident said. “I remember covering one eye and reading the chart, then the other eye. I think I also read the chart with both eyes uncovered. But how is the test graded? What’s the minimum score? For both eyes combined? Can you pass the test with one good eye? And what happens to somebody whose vision test score is too low? Can it be appealed or the test retaken? How does all this work?”

A. Those are valid questions. The vision requirements for an applicant to obtain a California driver’s license (for various license classifications including Class C) are addressed in both the California Vehicle Code (primarily in section 12804.9) and in various sections of the DMV’s customer-friendly California Driver Handbook (pages 3, 4, 16 and 79). Click the button below to go to the DMV Website.

Here are some of the general requirements:

1. A 20/40 visual acuity – with or without glasses is the DMV’s vision guideline. Customers applying for a class A, B, or commercial C license must qualify/test for 20/40 vision with both eyes and also with each eye individually. Visual acuity measurements are obtained for both eyes together (the assumption is during normal driving, both eyes remain open) and for each eye separately.

2. There are two methods of testing: a Snellen Chart or an Optec 1000 Vision Tester.

3. The Snellen Chart contains five lines of letters and measures the portion of an applicant’s general seeing ability, referred to as visual acuity or keenness of vision.

4. The Optec 1000 Vision Tester obtains a more precise vision score by providing a test situation, which is equivalent to placing an applicant at one end of a room 26-feet in length, then reading a test target at the opposite end of the room.

5. Applicants who do not pass either exam – depending on the circumstances – may be referred to a vision specialist. The vision specialist may prescribe updated eye correction being worn by an applicant.

What about eye exam requirements for California drivers who are renewing their licenses?

According to the driver handbook and also internet sources, licenses in California are typically renewed every five years. And until a driver reaches age 70, he/she automatically may be granted two consecutive five-year renewals – obtained by mail or via the dmv.ca.gov website.

But a 70-and-older driver seeking license renewal cannot do so by mail, noted Armenta. Such a driver is required to go to a DMV field office (an appointment is recommended) and successfully pass a vision test, as well as an 18-question renewal written test. Also, a behind-the-wheel test may be required of a driver of any age who’s seeking license renewal because California requires doctors to report certain medical conditions that could impact driving ability.

Read more on the DMV website here: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/

We recommend scheduling an eye exam before being tested at the DMV to save yourself time and hassle. You can always schedule an appointment online at Sunshine Optometry, and did you know that some members of the team also speak Spanish?

¿Necesita un Examen de la Vista para el Departamento de Motores y Vehiculos?