What Are The Eyesight Requirements For Driving?

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Statistics from 2017 suggest that the vast majority of all Britons wear glasses, but what are the DVLA eyesight requirements for driving? How are they tested? And what common eyesight conditions do you need to look out for?

DVLA driving eyesight rules

GOV UK eye test campaign
The DVLA launched a campaign reminding drivers to check their eyesight is suitable for driving. Copyright © DVLA

The DVLA has outlined three simple rules when it comes to eyesight when driving.

  1. You must wear glasses or contact lenses every time you drive (should you need them).
  2. You must inform the DVLA if you develop a problem with your eyesight that affects both eyes, or your remaining eye should you only have one.
  3. You must be able to pass a practical eyesight test for driving.

These rules make up the eyesight requirements for driving in the UK, but it’s your responsibility to make sure that you comply with them. Failure to comply could lead to some serious consequences.

Eyesight test for driving

In order to ensure that you are visually capable of driving, the DVLA uses a three-part test, that encompasses both range and field of vision.

  • First, you must be able to read a number plate made after 1st of September 2001 from at least 20 metres away. You may use glasses or contact lenses as required.
  • Second, you must meet the minimum standard for driving in visual acuity (clearness of vision) of 0.5 or 6/12 (the 5th line) on the Snellen Scale (the chart with the letters) using both eyes together or your one remaining eye. You may use glasses or contact lenses as required.
  • Third, you must have an adequate field of vision i.e. how much you can see around you while looking straight ahead. Tests for this are now usually incorporated in standard eye tests at the optometrist.
Snellen Chart

You can make sure you meet these conditions by regularly having eye tests (at least every two years) and by checking you can read number plates when out and about. In order to do this, pace 20 metres (20 strides or the equivalent of five car lengths) away from a car, e.g. in a carpark or from your driveway, and try to read the number plate, comparing your guess to the actual plate to see if you got it right.

Practical driving test

As part of your practical driving test you will be required to prove that you can pass the ‘number plate test’ mentioned above, by reading a plate from 20 metres away. If you fail to read the plate correctly, you will be immediately failed and have your provisional licence revoked.

This means you will need to reapply for a license to take your test again and part of the re-application process will involve an eye test with the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency). However, even if you’re successful with your application, you’ll still have to pass the eyesight test part of the practical exam.

Police roadside tests

The police can pull drivers over and have them perform a roadside eye test if they suspect that they don’t comply with the vision requirements. This test replicates the number plate one used in the driving test, and your licence can be revoked if you fail.

When a driver fails the test, they are advised that getting back behind the wheel would be an offence under Cassie’s Law. Officers can email the DVLA requesting a licence to be revoked and the DVLA can issue a formal revocation the same day. There have been over 600 instances of licence revocation since the law was introduced in 2013.

4 Common conditions that affect eyesight

There are numerous conditions out there that can affect your eyesight and your ability to drive, and, depending on the condition, you may need to inform the DVLA. Here are four common conditions to look out for.

1. Infections

Although eye infections can have a variety of different causes, the effects are usually the same i.e. itchiness and potentially blurred vision. As long as you’re treating yourself correctly you should still be okay to drive. If the infection doesn’t affect both eyes you shouldn’t need to contact the DVLA either.

2. Cataracts

Commonly related to ageing, it is believed that by the age of 65 90% of people will have cataracts in one form or another. Cataracts are the clouding of eye’s lens and is the most common cause of vision loss in over 40s. It is often safe to drive with cataracts and you may not need to notify the DVLA if it doesn’t affect both eyes.

3. Retinography

Retinography refers to any damage to the retina which may cause vision impairment and is most commonly caused by premature birth, diabetes and high blood pressure. If you have retinography you must inform the DVLA, but you can still drive provided you pass the national requirements for field of vision.

4. Glaucoma

Predominantly found in adults in their 70s and 80s, glaucoma is a common eye condition that can affect all ages and occurs when the optic nerve gets damaged. Glaucoma causes a loss in field of vision and as a result can affect your ability to drive. As with retinography, you must contact the DVLA if you develop glaucoma, but you may still drive should you be able to pass the national requirements for field of vision.

6 ways to better look after your eyes

Vision is an important aspect of life and it is vital that we try to maintain it. According to the American Optometric Association (the AOA), there are six things we can do to improve the quality of vision and health of our eyes.

1. Eye breaks

Digital devices, LEDs and fluorescent lights are increasingly relying on shorter wavelengths towards the bluer part of the spectrum, which may cause slow gradual retinal damage from high continual use. Special glasses and lens coatings are available that may be able to block these emissions, but regularly screen breaks are recommended.

2. Sunglasses

Ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun can also cause slow gradual damage to our eyes and wearing UV-A and UV-B protection sunglasses is recommended. Wearing a hat can also improve protection, as well as putting on suncream around the eyes.

3. Quite smoking

As well as being generally bad for your health, the chemicals produced from smoking can also increase the risk of developing age-related eye conditions and cataracts.

4. Eat healthily

A balanced and healthy diet can have as much of a positive impact on your eyesight, as an unhealthy die can have a negative one. Research shows that foods rich with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and C or zinc, can lower the risk of eye conditions, whereas processed and high-fat foods and increase the risk.

Good foods to be on the look out for include: fish, broccoli, citrus fruits, nuts, eggs, leafy greens and beef, where as things to avoid include: high sodium foods, diet sodas and refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread).

5. Regular exercise

Exercise has numerous proven benefits for both our physical and mental health and research shows that it also assists in maintaining our eyesight. This is because exercise improves blood circulation and increases the flow of oxygen to our eyes.

6. Eye tests

While the rest of the suggestions are good ways of helping to maintain vision, the best way is through regularly scheduled eye exams. While it’s recommended you get your eyes tested at least every two years, get them checked earlier should you feel the need to.

Now that you’re up-to-date with the eyesight requirements for driving, why not cast your eyes over our latest personal and business lease deals.

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