Kentucky requires all new drivers to pass a vision test and meet specific sight requirements as outlined by the state. Licensed drivers do not need to take an eye test unless there has been a suspension of their driving privileges or their license has otherwise lapsed for more than a year.
However, that may change – the state is in the process of passing a bill that will require drivers to get tested every time they renew their driver's license. If the bill passes, the law will become effective in Kentucky in 2024.
Kentucky's Vision Requirements
Kentucky law states that a new permit applicant's horizontal vision must be a minimum of 35 degrees to the left and right and a minimum of 25 degrees above and below fixation in order to drive a motor vehicle. Applicants participating in a certified driving training program also must meet these additional sight requirements:
- 20/20 or better vision with corrective lenses in their better eye.
- At least 120 degrees horizontal and 80 degrees vertical vision acuity in their better eye.
- Visual acuity of 20/60 or greater using a bioptic telescopic device.
- The driver must have stable vision for at least one year.
Vision test results with over 1/3 fixation losses, false positives or false negatives are deemed unreliable and will not meet visual field test requirements. An applicant who does not meet the minimum visual acuity standards or field requirements will not be eligible to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Kentucky.
Eye Tests for Driver's License Renewals
Currently, the Bluegrass State requires a vision screening for new drivers, but not for those renewing their license. However, this may change. In February 2022, House Bill 439, which would require a vision test every time someone renews their driver's license, has passed the state House.
The bill's supporters see it as a safety measure for drivers. Forty-two other states require vision tests with driver's license renewals. The bill will head to the state Senate for a vote, and if it passes, it will be law in Kentucky in 2024.
Eye Exam Process in Kentucky
When a new driver who has been accepted by a certified training program takes a written test on Kentucky's driving laws, they will also take an oral eye exam. After successfully completing it, the driver will get a temporary permit that is valid only when accompanied by a certified training program driver.
After completing training through the certified program, the driver will have another eye exam and move on to a comprehensive driver's exam with the Kentucky State Police. Part of this exam focuses on the applicant's ability to drive a motor vehicle while wearing a bioptic telescopic device.
Rules for Out-of-state Licensing
Restricted out-of-state drivers who become Kentucky residents must pass a temporary instruction permit exam before taking their operator's license exam. They do not have to complete a certified driver training program in Kentucky, but must still pass the visual exam before taking the test for an operator's license.
If an applicant fails the operator's license test three times, they cannot retake the exam until they successfully complete more training through a certified program and get an affidavit from the program director or driving instructor recommending they take the exam again.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.