Can You Drive With Dilated Eyes?

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on September 01, 2023
2 min read

Going in for an eye exam? Your doctor may dilate your eyes to make sure they’re healthy. But the test can leave you battling the glare of sunlight and blurry vision. So is it safe to drive yourself home after your appointment?

The answer depends on a few things, including how comfortable you feel behind the wheel. But it’s important to understand how your vision will change when your eyes are dilated.

When you get your eyes dilated, your doctor uses special drops to open your pupils wide. This lets them get a look at your whole eye, including all the nerves and blood vessels at the back, to check for signs of diseases.

The drops your doctor uses usually last for 4-6 hours, or sometimes longer. That means your pupils stay wide open and can’t block out light in bright areas as they usually would. That causes glare and makes your vision blurry. If you decide to drive before the drops have worn off, you won’t be able to see things as clearly as usual, and it will seem much brighter than normal, especially outside in the sunlight.


Your eyesight will be impaired, so some experts say you should play it safe and not get behind the wheel. Others say it depends on how comfortable you feel with the effects of dilation. Many people just experience blurry vision while looking up close, not far away. 

To decide what’s best for you, think about a few things before you get on the road after your exam.

Your first time? If you’ve never had your pupils dilated, you can’t be sure how your eyes will react. So it’s probably best to arrange for someone to drive you home.

Bring shades. Sunlight or any bright light may not harm your eyes when they’re dilated, but it can make them feel uncomfortable. Bring a pair of sunglasses for the ride home to cut down on the glare.

Chill out. If you’re not in a hurry after your exam, take a little time in the doctor’s waiting room to let the drops wear off.

What else affects your eyesight? If you have other health conditions, like glaucoma or cataracts, that keep you from seeing well, dilation will only make things worse.

Know your own driving. If you’re usually not comfortable behind the wheel, then it’s probably not a good idea to drive while your eyes are dilated.

Mind the driving conditions. Even without dilated eyes, it’s harder to see in the rain, snow, or when it’s dark. If conditions aren’t ideal, get someone else to pick you up.

When you schedule your appointment, ask if you can expect to have your pupils dilated during the exam. That will help you know what arrangements you should make ahead of time.