Eyesight For Driving
Is your eyesight good enough to drive?
Good eyesight is an important factor in road safety.
Good vision is just one key part of good eyesight which also encompasses visual acuity, field of vision, night vision, contract sensitivity. Any issues of difficulties with any of these visual functions will compromise safe driving.
National Eye Health Week estimates that there are nine million drivers in Britain with vision that falls below the legal standards for driving, referred to as the ‘standards of vision for driving’.
But what are the consequences of poor eyesight?
Driving with poor eyesight may result in struggling to stay in your lane, or reading road signs or keeping a consistent speed. Poor eyesight also hampers your ability to react to unexpected hazards which can result in a higher risk of being involved or causing a road accident.
Road crashes involving a driver with poor vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties and cost £33 million in the UK per year .
Not only is good eyesight a logical requirement for road safety, there is also a legal visibility requirement that all road users have to adhere too.
What are the standards of driving?
To drive cars in the UK you must meet the legal requirements.
The minimum standard of eyesight you must reach for driving means:
- You need to be able to read (with or without corrective lenses) a car number plate made after 1st September 2001 from 20 metres.
- You also need to have a visual acuity of at least 6/12 (20/40) on the Snellen scale and have an adequate field of vision. This test can be done by an Optometrist.
- If your sight test suggests that there may be a problem with your peripheral vision, the DVLA can arrange further tests to make sure you have an adequate field of vision.
If you are a lorry or bus driver there are more strict eyesight requirements that need to be met. A medical and vision check is needed when you first apply for a bus or lorry licence. After that every five years from age 45 and every year from age 65 for the licence to be valid.
In comparison, licensed taxi drivers must meet the vision requirements of their local authority. This can vary but are often the same as for lorry and bus drivers.
Don’t risk your life or your licence
It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that their eyesight continues to meet the legal eyesight requirements. A police officer concerned with someone’s driving ability may pull over a driver to see if they have good vision. If a driver fails the roadside driver’s eye test, and the police officer deems the driver to be unsafe, they could receive a ban.
What about new drivers?
All new drivers will have been tested during their practical exam.
Learner drivers taking their practical driving test will be asked to read a number plate at a distance of 20 metres (five car lengths) prior to stepping foot into the car. For the practical test to continue, the learner must be able to read the car number plate precisely. This can be wearing glasses or contact lenses, if necessary. If they aren’t able to read the plate, they will fail the test there and then. This is to ensure that all newly qualified drivers meet the eyesight requirements before taking their driving test.
How can drivers check their eyesight?
The easiest way to check your vision is to take an eye exam with an optometrist. However, if you have urgent concerns and face a wait before any test is available, stand 20 metres back from a car (5 parked cars) and read the number plate. If you struggle, book an eye examination to see an optometrist as soon as possible.
Book your eye examination online.
What to do if your eyesight changes?
Certain eye conditions or eyesight problems which affect both of your eyes (or the remaining one if you only have one) need to be reported to the DVLA.
This could include:
- The sharpness of your vision (visual acuity)
- Any condition which creates a blind spot in one or both eyes (a visual field defect). These can be temporary or permanent. Such as glaucoma, disease or damage to the retina at the back of the eye (retinopathy) and even some drugs.
- Tunnel Vision, which is the loss of vision at the edges of your eyesight while the central portion remains normal.
These are just some of the conditions you may need to notify DVLA about. You can find more information here.
You can report your eye condition online.
So, how do you know if your eyesight is good enough to drive?
This might seem obvious, but regular eye examinations are key to knowing if your eyesight is good enough to drive. It’s not always straightforward as changes in vision can creep up gradually and particularly as you age. For most people, changes begin with a very gradual decline in vision. By having regular eye examinations, any subtle changes can be investigated at the earliest possible opportunity.
Book your eye examination online.
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 This report was commissioned by the insurer RSA as part of its ‘Fit to Drive’ campaign, to raise awareness of the dangers of driving with poor vision.