Eye Exams for Drivers

  • BY Lainie Petersen

Planning on getting or renewing your license anytime soon? That means you will have to take an eye examination at the DMV. The process typically involves disclosing any vision issues and then reading letters off an eye chart, though each state has its own eye testing regulations. Read on for some info and tips on taking a DMV eye exam.

License Vision Requirements

All states require individuals to take a visual acuity test as a condition for receiving your first driver’s license. States generally provide vision testing at driver’s license facilities, though some states will accept a doctor’s certificate showing that you’ve recently passed a vision exam. 

Most states have a minimum best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) requirement of 20/40 in the better eye. State driver’s license agency websites usually contain information on the vision testing process, as well as tips for passing the test. Be sure to bring your eyeglasses to the testing site, as you may not be able to even attempt the test without them.

Some states require elderly drivers to undergo more frequent vision examinations. If you live in such a state, it’s important to pay attention to the testing schedule so that you don’t inadvertently allow your driver’s license to lapse.

Restricted Licenses

States often issue restricted licenses to individuals who have visibility problems. The terms of these restricted licenses vary, but may require the driver to wear corrective eyewear while driving, or may limit driving to daylight hours. Individuals who have specific visibility issues will  have to undergo additional eye testing by an optometrist, have specific state paperwork filled out and possibly need to complete a special driver’s education course.

Assistance for Drivers With Visual Impairments

In addition to providing driver’s education programs for individuals with poor eyesight, individuals who can’t qualify for a driver’s license because of low vision may qualify for certain public transit benefits, including reduced fares and even on-call para-transit services if there is low accessibility to public transport. If your eyesight prevents you from driving, ask your local public transit company for details on special services for the disabled.

Preparing for a Driver’s Vision Test

Just as consumer advocates encourage job seekers to check their credit before applying for work, it may be a good idea to have your eyes checked before making the trip to the DMV. Not only will you avoid the annoyance of failing an eye test, but you can discuss any vision and eye health concerns with your doctor as well as receive a prescription for an updated pair of glasses to pass your exam.


Don’t let passing a DMV vision test give you a false sense of security. Passing a vision test is just one aspect of a thorough, clinical eye exam. It’s possible to pass the vision test and still have an undetected eye disease that could cause or contribute to future vision loss. Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, it’s generally a good idea to have your eyes checked every two years.