Driving laws for the visually impaired in California

Each U.S. state has its own DMV requirements regarding visual impairments. For specific and current information, please consult the DMV website of your state.

Find an amplify doctor near you
Driving laws for the visually impaired in California Optometrist
Table of Contents

Certain vision conditions might impair your ability to drive safely on the road in California. However, even if you do have a visual condition, you may still be able to get your driver's license. At our low vision center, our low vision optometrist helps patients with vision loss who are looking to drive again. For patients that meet the criteria we provide guidance, specialized optics, and assistance in passing the driving test to demonstrate that you can drive safely and can cope with your vision condition.

Please note while this information is currently up to date, state driving regulations may change and it is always important to visit a low vision optometrist to get the most up to date information.

Amplify EyeCare

Standard vision screening

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is permitted to test the vision of all the applicants. Anyone who applies for a driver’s license in the State of California undergoes a standard vision screening and has to meet their standards in order to be able to drive on the road.

The vision standard of the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state of California is that the applicant must have 20/40 vision in both eyes and 20/40 vision in one eye and a minimum of 20/70 vision in the other.

Click here to access form DL-62, report of vision examination from the California DMV. 

If you submitted a DL 62 within the previous six months, a new DL 62 form is not required. However, if you had eye surgery within those six months, you must complete and submit a new DL 62 so that your vision specialist can give DMV an update on your vision.

Visual acuity requirement in California

Visual acuity requirement in California

Understanding what visual acuity is important before discussing the minimum requirement for visual acuity by DMV. Visual acuity refers to your ability to see clearly and recognize the sharpest details in an object. Normal visual acuity is 20/20.

If an applicant cannot pass the standard vision screening, they must have better than 20/200 vision in at least one eye. In order to meet the minimum visual acuity, you may wear glasses or contact lenses but not telescopic glasses or lenses. Those who do not meet the minimum standard of visual acuity cannot be licensed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Visual acuity requirement in California

Visual acuity requirement in California

Bioptic telescopes are customized lenses specially designed to help someone with vision loss safely drive again by enabling them to tilt their head slightly in order to magnify things are a distance. Bioptic telescopes are used to assist the driver in seeing street signs, pedestrians, and traffic lights. In California, bioptic telescopes may not be used to meet the minimum visual acuity requirement of having better than 20/200 in at least one eye. Bioptic telescope acuity must be 20/40 or better. Many of our patients have been able to get back their independence and drive again aided by bioptic telescope glasses.

For patients that failed a vision screening and have been prescribed bioptic telescope glasses for driving, they will be asked to return to the DMV with their DL 62 and need to take a SDPE (driving test) to determine if they can drive safely while wearing their bioptic telescopic lens. 

As soon as you pass your driving test, your license will restrict you to driving with your bioptic telescopic lens on. If your driving test was passed during the day you will be restricted to driving during daylight hours. If however you passed the test during the night you will not be restricted to daylight hours.

Find an amplify doctor near you
What happens if you do not pass the vision screening?

What happens if you do not pass the vision screening?

In the event that you do not meet the requirement for vision screening, you will be referred to an eye doctor. You will be given a form for your eye doctor to fill out. When you return after an assessment with the form, your vision will be tested again.

To ensure the DMV that you can drive safely, you will have to take a driving test regardless of your visual condition. By passing your driving test, you can demonstrate that your vision impairment does not affect your driving abilities. However, your driver’s license may have restrictions such:

  • You may only drive with corrective lenses
  • You may only drive during daylight

In the event that you fail the vision test, the DMV will schedule a Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (SDPE) (driving test) for you to see if you can compensate for your vision condition. If your eye doctor prescribes glasses, contact lenses, or specialized vision aids for driving, you must wear your glasses or corrective contact lenses. In the event that your low vision optometrist prescribes you with specialized lenses for driving it is important that you wait until you are comfortable with the new lenses before scheduling a SDPE. If you pass the driving test, DMV will renew your driver's license and add (or retain) a corrective lens restriction to your driver's license.

While issuing you the driver’s license, DMV will take into consideration your visual conditions, your driving needs, and any suggestion from your eye doctor, and will grant you a license for a full term which is 5 years or a limited term which could be 1 or 2 years.

Should you need to renew your driver's license, you may not need to undergo the vision referral process if your vision condition does not worsen and remains stable.

If a candidate with low vision is unable to pass the driving test and drives unsafely on the road, their license can be revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

What conditions may restrict me from driving in California?

Certain conditions may prevent a patient from meeting the DMV’s minimum vision screening standards, in which case the driver may be referred to the DMV’s Driver Safety Branch for a hearing. It is recommended that you speak with our low vision optometrist who can provide you with information that may assist you when appealing your case. 

These health conditions may include:

  • Brain tumor or lesion
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Head trauma
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma ocular lesions
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
Visual acuity requirement in California
Visual acuity requirement in California

What are the different visual skills that are needed while driving?

Near and distance vision

The ability to see things close up and far away are critical for safely operating a vehicle. Distance vision is needed for seeing signs, pedestrians, traffic lights, and much more. Near vision is needed for safe operations inside the car as well as seeing things in front of your vehicle.

Peripheral vision

Peripheral vision (side vision) is your ability to see on the sides of your central vision. When you are driving and have to change lanes, this skill is essential. Similarly, it's needed when you read road signs, warning signs, and lane markings. Patients with poor peripheral vision may find it difficult to keep their car centered in the lane or park their car and therefore, it may be unsafe for them to drive.

Night vision

Your vision may be perfect for driving in daylight hours but not during night. Under low light and poor contrast, it might be unsafe for them to drive at night, as they may not see the dangers on the road, such as a person wearing dark clothes crossing the road, curbs, or potholes.

Glare and light sensitivity

It may be unsafe for you to drive if you are sensitive to glare and light. If the headlights of oncoming traffic disrupt your vision at night, you may not be able to see in front of you for a few seconds, which could be dangerous. Being able to recover quickly from the glare is crucial.

Eye movement

While driving, you need to have controlled eye movement because if you look at a road sign or car or your rear view mirror for too long, you may lose track of where you are and could be highly dangerous for you and others. There are several possible causes, including nystagmus and other visual conditions.

Visual perception

Visual perception is our ability to perceive what your eyes are seeing. Several vision conditions could affect our ability of visual perception. While driving, it is crucial for discerning foreground from background, determining the position of other vehicles, signs, and pedestrians.

Low Vision optometry and eye care
Amplify EyeCare and Optometrists

Improve Your Vision and Enhance Your Life - Schedule an Appointment with an Amplify EyeCare Eye Doctor

Amplify EyeCare is a team of a passionate and experienced optometrists practicing eye care at the cutting edge of technology and vision science. We are growing with new locations coming across the US.
Visit a Low Vision optometrist at an Amplify EyeCare practice near you:

Common Questions

Yes, it is generally possible to drive in California with one blind eye, provided the other eye meets the state's vision requirements. A low vision eye doctor can conduct a detailed examination to assess the individual's ability to drive safely. However, restrictions might apply, and it is always best to consult with the local DMV or a low vision optometrist familiar with California's specific regulations to understand the exact criteria.
Low vision individuals may be able to drive in California if they meet specific visual acuity requirements, often with the aid of bioptic telescopic lenses or other assistive devices. A low vision exam conducted by a low vision optometrist can assess whether an individual qualifies for driving under the state's regulations. Special training and additional testing might also be necessary.
The California DMV typically uses the Snellen eye chart to test visual acuity as part of the driver's licensing process. This chart consists of lines of letters that decrease in size, and it is a standard tool used to determine if an individual meets the state's vision requirements. If concerns arise during this test, the DMV might require a more comprehensive evaluation by a low vision eye doctor to assess the individual's visual abilities further.
Amplify EyeCare cartoon

Schedule a low vision exam at

If you suffer from visual impairment and have problems with any of the above discussed visual skills or you have failed the California DMV vision screening, we welcome you to schedule a low vision exam with our low vision optometrist. You can call our practice to schedule an eye exam. 

Contact Us To Amplify Your EyeCare