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State Requirements Concerning Standards Of Vision Of Persons Applying For License To Operate Motor Vehicles

From: Fifth Annual Report Of The National Committee For the Prevention Of Blindness
Creator: n/a
Date: December 31, 1919
Publisher: National Committee for the Prevention of Blindness, New York
Source: Available at selected libraries


Early in the summer a number of inquiries were directed to the Committee relating to the relation between defective vision and automobile accidents, likewise as to the cases of loss of sight or injury to eyes resulting from automobile accidents. As no general compilation of information on the subject had been made hitherto, the Committee undertook this study. Letters were directed to the State officials having in charge the issuance of licenses to operate motor-driven vehicles, inquiring whether any vision test was required before such license would be granted. Although all replies are not in as yet, it is apparent that there are practically no adequate requirements of this nature in any State. In numerous cities, however, it was found that individual taxicab companies required of chauffeurs vision tests of varying degrees of excellence. The results of this investigation are as follows:


New Hampshire


"Through local examiners, puts each applicant for license through a somewhat crude test. The test is made by the use of a Snellen Chart." -- Letter from Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.




Bill before legislature requiring that every applicant for a license to operate a motor vehicle in Pennsylvania shall have not less than 20 per cent. of normal vision, and not less than 2 per cent. of normal hearing. Present regulations: "No person who is mentally or physically incapacitated shall be permitted to operate a motor vehicle in the public highways of this state and if any such person shall have obtained a license it shall be void."




"Persons applying for license to operate vehicles in this state must be both mentally and physically competent. On license application form the following question appears: 'Is your eyesight impaired?' Same must be sworn to and likewise signed by two reputable citizens, one of whom must be the applicant's instructor."


New Jersey


"Every applicant required to undergo an examination. When this examination is given, special attention is directed to the vision of the applicant. Where it is shown that the applicant's vision is in any wise defective, drivers license is, of course, refused." -- Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.




"Whenever we have any question about eyesight, whether the applicant is a safe person to allow to operate on the road, we send him to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary-which has always, up to the present time, been willing to examine the applicants and send us a report." -- Mess. Highway Commissioner.


New York


"Applicant must answer question: 'Is your eyesight or hearing affected in any way?'"


No special vision requirements obtain in the following states: --


District of ColumbiaGeorgiaIllinois
Indiana KentuckyLouisiana
Maine MississippiMontana
NebraskaNevadaNew Mexico
North CarolinaOhio Oregon
Rhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth Dakota
TennesseeTexas Utah
VirginiaWashingtonWest Virginia


Sixteen states have failed to send in as yet any advice as to their regulations.


It seemed evident that the present vision requirements considered in the issuance of such licenses were so lax, or so completely lacking, as to make further inquiry desirable, to ascertain, if possible, what direct connection might be established between automobile accidents and defective vision of drivers. If such should be manifest to appreciable degree, effort to correct existing conditions might then be undertaken on a sound basis. The subject was, therefore, brought to the attention of some ninety companies writing liability insurance of this nature. Owing to the failure in most cases to segregate statistics of this particular nature, there are not as yet available data which might be considered of material significance. Such as has been furnished, however, is indicative of the need for more specific knowledge on the subject, and numerous insurance companies have offered to segregate statistics of this nature during the coming year.


In this inquiry our attention has been directed by many to the fact that automobile accidents are not infrequently caused by an insect getting into the eye of the driver, or by foreign particles, flying dust, and dirt. Heavy fog, smoke, or steam likewise obscure the vision of drivers, and fog the windshield and goggles under certain conditions. Headlight glare and dust from passing cars have also been mentioned as contributing factors to accident occurrence.


In the automobile accidents sustained from all causes eye cuts from flying glass are not exceptional. One western insurance company, in reply to our questions, answered that "out of 4,000 cases reported under policies covering automobile accidents, 66 cases were the result of injuries to eyes." This did not include statistics on the entire business of the company, such statistics not being available at this time.