A survey by the DVLA, suggests that 50% of motorists are not aware of the minimum eyesight standards needed for a licence.
Your eyes are obviously the most important of the senses when driving, so it’s vital to make sure your vision is up to the legal standard.
The law states that you must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1st September 2001 from 20 metres. You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye.
The Snellen test is administered by an optician, and usually consists of a number of rows of letters which get smaller as you read down the chart. You must also have an adequate field of vision – talk to your optician about this and take a test.
If you are driving a lorry or a bus, the eyesight requirements are of a higher standard. You must have a visual acuity of at least 0.8 (6/7.5) in your best eye and at least 0.1 (6/60) on the Snellen scale in the other eye. For more information on the standards of driving for lorry and bus drivers, you can refer to www.gov.uk/driving-eyesight-rules.
Your vision can naturally deteriorate over time and research shows you can lose up to 40% of your vision before noticing the difference.
You should regularly check your vision by assessing whether you can read a licence plate from 20 metres away (this is approximately five car lengths or 26 steps for a man and 33 steps for a woman), as well as going to the opticians. The NHS recommends you should get your eyes tested every two years (more often if advised by your ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist).
Obviously if you are noticing any signs that your eyesight is deteriorating, such as finding it more difficult to see when driving at night or finding it harder to judge distances, you should book in with your optician immediately rather than waiting for your next check-up.
If you should (but don’t) wear glasses or contact lenses, as well as putting yours and other people’s lives in danger, you risk huge fines, penalty points and even jail time.
Since 2013, Police Officers have had the power to request an urgent revocation of a licence through the DVLA if they believe the safety of other road users is at risk if a driver remains on the road.
If you are pulled over and fail a roadside eye test, the police now have the facility to contact the DVLA and have your driving licence revoked within a few minutes. This power is known as Cassie’s Law, named after 16-year-old Cassie McCord, who lost her life when a man lost control of his vehicle. It later emerged he had failed a police eyesight test a day earlier, but a legal loophole meant he could continue driving.
It’s estimated there are 2,900 casualties per year in the UK caused by drivers with inadequate eyesight. To ensure you are safe to drive on the road, get your eyes tested regularly, inform the DVLA if you have any problems with your eyesight – and wear your glasses!
Published 26th April 2019