As the police intensify their efforts to enforce vision standards during roadside checks, individuals who are found to be driving with uncorrected defective eyesight could be in violation of the law. Those caught may incur fines of up to £1,000, receive three penalty points on their licence, and face potential disqualification.
With roadside eyesight checks reported to be on the increase, Alastair Lockwood, eye health specialist and ophthalmologist at Feel Good Contacts, answers seven key questions about the standards of vision required for driving.
Drivers must be able to read a car number plate from 20 metres away (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) to meet the legal minimum eyesight standards. The number plate must be made after 1st September 2001 and read easily.
You can check yourself by reading a number plate from 20 metres away or by going for an eye test. Generally, you should have your eyes tested every two years and more occasionally if advised by your optometrist. Your optometrist will be able to tell you if you have an adequate field of vision and test your sharpness on a Snellen chart. A Snellen chart is made up of capital letters in rows, descending in size and is used to measure how good your vision is.
If you feel your vision is getting worse, you should visit your optician and get an eye test as soon as possible. Your optician will tell you if a new prescription is required or refer you to an eye specialist if you have a severe eye condition, which you need to declare to the DVLA.
If you need to wear glasses or contact lenses, you must wear them every time you drive. You do not need to inform the DVLA if you are short-sighted, long-sighted or colour blind.
Medical conditions you must declare to the DVLA include any problems that affect your eyesight, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. These common conditions cause reduced visual acuity (sharpness of perception), distorted and blurred vision, and night blindness that will negatively impact your driving. See the government website for a full list of eye conditions you must declare.
People with astigmatism struggle to drive at night due to the glare from streetlights and headlights, which can cause blurry vision. However, having astigmatism doesn't mean that you can't drive at night. As long as you wear corrective eyewear for astigmatism, such as toric contact lenses, this should usually correct the problem.
You may still be able to drive if you only have vision in one eye. As long as you still meet the standards of vision for driving, it is not necessary to inform the DVLA if you have monocular vision.
You should book an appointment with your optician if you're not sure about whether your vision will affect your driving.
During your practical driving test, the examiner will ask you to read a number plate on a parked vehicle correctly. If you fail the eyesight test, the DVLA will be informed, and your licence will be revoked.
Lorry and bus drivers must have a medical and vision check when they first apply, then every five years from the age of 45 and every year from the age of 60.
To be as safe as possible on the road as a driver, it’s vital to ensure your vision is good enough.
If you’ve got other questions in relation to driving with a disability or a mobility issue, then check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.