Sunday, February 1, 2015

California DMV Vision Driving Test

 Since birth, I have had an eye condition that limits the vision in one of my eyes.  The eye in question has peripheral vision and the field of vision that both eyes covers is 100%.  But renewing my license this year,  the California DMV apparently had no record of my eye anomaly which surprised me.
To bring my file up-to-date, one of the things I had to do is take a behind-the-wheel "Vision Driving Test".  I could find virtually no information online about what a California DMV Vision Driving Test covers,  so I decided to create this post to assist others.
 First, from the little I could find online it appeared that a Vision Driving Test would be limited to ensuring I could see properly.  Fair enough, makes sense.  After taking the test,  I can tell you that it appears to cover everything that a normal driving test covers - so be prepared!  For those of you that find yourself in my shoes - suddenly taking a behind-the-wheel test after decades of driving - this post is a crash course in preparing for that test.
 Step 1.  Watch the DMV videos on taking the behind-the-wheel driving test here.
 Step 2. Memorize the automatic failure areas, shown to the left.  I know some of these are fairly vague, but this is what the categories are.  I know not coming to a complete stop is an automatic failure, so it must fall under disobeying traffic sign.

Also, "speed" is very vague.  It means going 10 MPH over the speed limit -OR- 10 MPH under the speed limit is an automatic failure.  If not marked, the default speed limit is 25 MPH.
 Step 3.  If possible, drive the test route a day or two in advance.  Ask around to find out what it is if necessary.
 Here is a list of what specifically is on the Vision Driving Test.   When I first took the test, I had no idea what would be on it and thought they would be looking for my visual abilities only.  Not true.  It is full blown driving test as near as I can tell.

First, they'll check your car to ensure it passes their checklist.  Then the evaluator will get in your car and ask if you have any questions.  Then the actual driving begins.  They'll evaluate how you drive in the parking lot, in a residential area, in a business district, and on a freeway.  You can opt out of freeway driving, but I would imagine that will result in a restriction on your license.

Carefully watch the speed limit each time you turn onto a new street, come to complete stops BEHIND the limit line, signal/check mirrors/look over the shoulder (in that order) for each lane change, and you should be just fine.
 So what are some things to look out for?  For starters, backing in a straight line without hitting the curb.  Signal to pull over to the curb, and back in a straight line while checking your mirrors and looking over your shoulder.
 On this residential street, the speed limit was clearly marked as 35 MPH.  OK so far.
But when we turned onto this street, the speed limit became 25 MPH because it is not marked, even though this felt even more worthy of 35 MPH than the prior street!   There appears to be some confusion over what the default speed limit is in commercial zones also.  The DMV video clearly says 25 MPH, but at least one person I talked with at the DMV office thought it was higher.  Maybe a good question for your evaluator, to ensure you're both on the same page?

Another area to look out for: when to look over your shoulder.  The videos are pretty clear as to the situations where it is necessary, but to be doubly sure I checked over my shoulder for every lane change and turn.

Finally, in preparing for this test,  some driving rules I had either forgotten or never knew:

  • When turning right, you must pull over as close to the curb as possible before making the turn.  I lost points for not doing this.  This is true even if there is a bike lane.
  • If there is a right turn red arrow, you CANNOT turn right on red, even if there is no "No Right Turn On Red" sign.  I was not aware of this.
  • When turning left, it is legal to pull into the intersection and wait for oncoming traffic to clear, even this means you will be eventually turning left on a yellow.  I had thought that the car must remain behind the limit line until traffic was clear, but this is not the case.
So there you have it.  A bit of insight into what to expect should a California DMV Vision Driving Test be required.   Best wishes and I hope this has been helpful.


Anonymous said...

Thank you sooo much for taking the time to post this. I'm pretty much in the same position right now with getting my license renewed in CA. I suspect you have the same eye condition I do: amblyopia.

Question. Does the vision driving test make you parallel park? I'm from the country, and I've never had to parallel park. This will be my first CA driving test, and I'm worried they'll make parallel park.

J said...

Hi There,

No, they didn't make me parallel park. I did, however, have to back up parallel to a curb (no other cars nearby).

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much! Hope I can pass tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

I have no vision in my right eye.I had to back up 3 car lengths along a curb on right side of street. I used all my mirrors and my back up camera. I can't turn my head and look over my shoulder with no vision in right eye.The monitor failed me..even after knowing my situation.

J said...

If you can't turn your head to look over your shoulder, I'm not sure I think you should have a license either.

One possible solution: I have an uncle who has a bad back and must wear a back brace, therefore he can't turn his head either. He has extra mirrors mounted in his car that allow him to see all locations around the vehicle. I assume this is why he has a license, the extra mirrors make up for his not being able to turn his head. He lives in a different state, but you may want to check with your state to see if this is a viable alternative for you.

Good luck.

M said...

Hi there

I have a valid out of state license. If I fail in this exam, can I continue to drive in california with that out of state license?

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sarah Emdy-bagger said...

I have a perfect driving record, no tickets ever,1 accident (I was hit),& now I have early-onset cataracts awaiting surgery and can't pass the DMV vision test? I'm trying not to feel like I failed a test and I hope this vision driving test is no different from normal driving, I don't have a car right now, the last who scheduled the test appt said they'll have a car I can drive but that'll mean no way to practice. I love driving, it's freedom and Independence for me. My test is July 20, but I've been with a temp license since May. I'll just say, to be cont.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I have an upcoming test and am nervous. I have had detachments.