The basic steps to get a driver's license in Texas are the same as those to obtain driving privileges in other states. They involve completing a series of tests: knowledge test, behind-the-wheel driving test, and vision test.
The vision test usually requires an in-person eye exam to establish that the applicant can see well enough to drive safely. The vision test in Texas is similar to eye tests in other states.
Texas Department of Public Health
Many states have a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that deals with driver's license exams and issuing driver's licenses. In Texas, however, it's the Department of Public Safety (DPS) that issues driver's licenses. This is still occasionally referred to as the DMV, however, by those who have lived in other states.
Driver's License Issuance
Texas driver's licenses are only issued to Texas residents. They are generally valid for up to eight years. To get information in person or to file an application, a Texas resident must visit one of the DPH driver's license offices located throughout the state.
Most of the offices ask residents seeking driver’s license applications or other services to make appointments in advance, although some offer walk-in help or same-day appointments.
Note that information is available online at the Texas Department of Public Health driver license website. In fact, some transactions can be conducted online, so it pays to check before scheduling an in-person appointment.
Getting a Driver's License
Anyone who wishes to obtain a driver's license in Texas must take a knowledge test and a skills test. The knowledge test is the written test that asks questions about Texas driving laws and other driving information.
The Texas Driver's Handbook is available online from the Texas Department of Public Safety. It is a good idea to download and study the handbook before sitting for the exam. The skills test is a behind-the-wheel driving exam that tests the driving ability of the applicant.
An applicant also must show that they are a citizen of the United States or live in this country legally, and establish Texas residency. They also must show ID, plus evidence of registration and insurance for any vehicles owned. First-time applicants must bring a certificate of completion from an Impact Texas Drivers program, which, for adults, involves watching a video.
Teen Driver Requirements
Young people who are seeking their first driver's license in Texas are required to jump through a few additional hoops. Texas teen-driver laws require completion of a driver education course and experience with a provisional license before getting a "real" license.
Experienced Drivers Moving to Texas
An adult moving to Texas with a valid, unexpired driver's license from another state or U.S. territory can drive in the state for 90 days on the old license.
This is also true of those moving to the state with a valid license from Canada or another qualifying country including France, South Korea, Germany or Taiwan. This does not apply to those with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs).
After the 90-day time period, the person must apply in person for a Texas license. If they choose to surrender their out-of-state or foreign country driver's license, they can avoid taking the Texas written exam or driving exam. If they opt to keep their prior license, they must take and pass all required exams. All applicants must pass a vision exam.
Texas Driver's License Vision Requirements
In order to take the driver's license test in Texas, an applicant must fill out the application, make an appointment, and show up at the appropriate office with all requisite documentation. They will need to pay the license fee and take and pass the vision test before sitting for the written test and the driving, or road, test.
The driver's license vision test in Texas is a screening to test for visual acuity. Anyone who has had an eye screening in the eye doctor's office is familiar with the procedure. An applicant is asked to read letters on an eye chart on the wall with first one eye, then the other. All drivers taking the vision test will also be tested for color blindness.
The requirements to get a license depend on whether the applicant wears corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses, and whether their vision can be improved. Anyone applying for a license should wear their corrective lenses when they appear for the testing.
Vision Test by an Optometrist
Note that it is possible to take the vision test at an optometrist’s office. If an applicant does this, they need to submit the results to the DPS at the time of the application. This is done on a DL-63 form completed by the eye doctor.
Required Eye Acuity to Drive in Texas
An applicant who does not wear corrective lenses must have 20/40 vision or better in both eyes. However, they are eligible for a Texas license if they score at least 20/50 in their better eye or in both eyes together, and they submit a statement from an eye specialist that their vision cannot be improved.
A person who submits this type of medical statement can get a restricted license if their best-eye vision or both-eyes vision score is 20/60 or 20/70. The license permits the holder to drive during the day at speeds of 45 miles an hour or less.
With vision corrected by glasses or contact lenses, an individual must have vision corrected to 20/50 to pass the test. At 20/70, their license will be restricted to daytime driving at a speed not to exceed 45 mph. If an applicant does not have a statement from an eye specialist, the failing score, with or without corrective lenses, is 20/70. At 20/200, an applicant is considered legally blind.
Failing a Vision Test
If the applicant fails the vision test with a score of 20/70 or worse, the Texas DPS refers the applicant to a vision specialist to see if it is possible to correct his vision with corrective lenses.
If this proves possible, they can repeat the vision test after correction. Vision that is worse than 20/200 is considered legally blind, and the DPH will not issue a driver’s license.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.