Vision and Driving in California
California is a huge state, with a myriad of driving conditions present, depending on what geographic area you are located. In the majority of the state, you have favorable weather conditions for driving, however Northern CA at times has torrential rainfall, and the Sierras and Mountain regions have winter snow conditions, and at times icy driving conditions. Until self-autonomous cars become the norm, vision continues to be essential for driving, and appropriate reflexes are necessary for certain weather conditions and on high-speed roadways.
The top factors concerning driving requirements are visual acuity (the ability to visually discriminate details), and visual field (peripheral vision). There are no federal standards for (noncommercial) drivers in the United States. Individual states have their own requirements for drivers, for both initial and renewal standards as it relates to uncorrected visual acuity, corrected visual acuity and visual fields.
Colorblindness and Driving in California
What level of vision color functioning is necessary for driving? As mentioned, visual acuity and peripheral vision serve as the primary aspects of vision consideration and secondary to those are vision requirements related to color vision and monocular vision. Color blindness will not cause any special condition for licensing in the state of California Other common changes that can affect driving include cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Red flags to look out for include changes in vision when driving at night.
Visual Acuity and Driving in California
The California DMV is authorized to test all applicants’ vision under California Vehicle Code (CVC) §12804.9(a)(1)(E).
Anyone who applies for an original or renewal driver license must meet the department’s visual acuity (vision) screening standard. The California DMV’s vision screening standard is:
- 20/40 with both eyes tested together, and
- 20/40 in one eye and at least, 20/70 in the other eye.
Peripheral Vision and Driving in California
Lateral visual field requirements vary dramatically from state to state, ranging from 105 to 155 degrees. Some states have a visual field requirement specifically for those with vision in one eye ranging from 55 to 105 degrees. In California, if you have a vision condition that impacts your vision beyond your visual acuity, reference the “Vision Conditions and Action Chart” for further guidance.
Dementia and Driving in California
If Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) receives a report about a driver with dementia, DMV must follow up by sending the reported driver to get a driver medical evaluation. In such situations, DMV does not take action without information from the driver’s doctor. For information on restrictions on driving with potential dementia onset in California, visit:
Diabetes and Driving in California
An estimated 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, and their medical condition has the potential to affect their ability to drive safely. Not having enough insulin, or having too much glucose in the blood affects a person’s ability to complete everyday tasks, such as operating a motor vehicle. For DMV guidance on driving with diabetes in California, visit: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/driver-education-and-safety/medical-conditions-and-driving/diabetes-and-driving/
For guidance on vision driving requirements in the state of California visit the California Safety and Motor Vehicles website:
For information on vision and driving in each state, visit their individual department of motor vehicles website. For an overview of driving and vision, visit the American Academy of Optometry for more information: