This is one of the most common questions we get asked in the exam room. Usually the actual question is “will I get in trouble if the police stop me and I’m not wearing glasses?” In Alberta, the requirement for a regular (Class 5) driver’s license is 20/50 vision with both eyes. So if you can read the 20/50 line (4 lines worse than 20/20 or “perfect” vision) without your glasses, you will not need a special condition put on your license requiring you to wear vision correction such as glasses or contacts.
However, 20/50 vision with both eyes open is not very good vision. A driver could be legally blind in one eye, and as long as he is able to get 20/50 with his good eye, he is deemed to have good enough vision to drive. I always counsel such patients to avoid driving in unfamiliar areas, after dark or in poor weather. For those folks able to achieve better than the minimum standard, I recommend that they wear their glasses for driving. Why?
Driving is a very demanding visual task. Having less than 20/20 vision puts you at risk in a number of ways. It means that your reaction time may be slower. The effort you put forward to see objects like road signs may distract you from other visual hazards. The split second longer it takes you to see that object in the road may be the difference between a collision or safe avoidance.
So if your vision can be improved at a distance, even just a little, our doctors recommend wearing your glasses while driving. This is especially true for new and inexperienced drivers. Driving can be a dangerous task. Increase your chances of arriving safely by optimizing your vision to the best possible level.
– Dr. Wilk