The importance of making sure your eyesight is of a standard approved by the DVLA for driving cannot be over-emphasised, especially as it could render your motor insurance invalid if it is not, and land you with a prosecution, a fine, possible points on your licence and in some cases, disqualification from driving. Not to mention of course the danger you could be putting yourself and other road users under.
It is a legal requirement to wear glasses or contact lenses for driving if you need them to meet the ‘standards of vision for driving’.
What is the Current Eyesight Standard for Driving?
The current standard is to be able to read a clean car number plate in good light from a distance of 20 metres. This standard applies to number plates made after 1 September 2001, and you are able to wear glasses or contact lenses if necessary in order to meet it, providing of course you then go on to wear these whilst driving.
You also need to have an adequate field of vision of a minimum of 120 degrees. This means that when looking straight ahead, without turning your head or moving your eyes, you should be able to see 60 degrees to the left and 60 degrees to the right. There is one other test known as ‘visual acuity’. As a minimum, drivers are required to have a 0.5 (6/12) reading on the Snellen scale.
If you are long or short sighted, or have undergone corrective surgery for short sightedness and can as a result meet the required standards, there is no need to inform the DVLA.
How is Eyesight Tested for Driving?
When a learner driver takes a practical driving test, the first thing they are tested on is their eyesight. If they fail this part, then they are considered to have failed the entire test. The DVLA will be notified and the licence will be revoked. In order to get it back it is necessary to take an eyesight test with the DVSA at a driving test centre.
Of course you may have been driving for some time and easily sailed through the eyesight element of your practical driving test. But over the years, eyesight naturally deteriorates, and certain conditions can develop that could prevent you from driving safely. There is a useful A-Z of health conditions listed on the Government website. If you have one of these conditions and have a driving licence, it is possible you will need to inform the DVLA. If you don’t, you could be fined up to £1,000, and you may be prosecuted if you are involved in an accident.
How can you Check your Eyesight Meets DVLA Standards?
Wearing any glasses or contact lenses you would usually use to correct your sight and ensuring there is good light, locate a clean, standard car number plate well in the distance that you are unable to read clearly. Walk towards it to the point where you can see it clearly without squinting. Then pace towards it using good strides, counting those strides as you go. One stride is approximately one metre, so if you count less than 20 strides then you have effectively failed the eyesight test.
Another test you can do without going outside is the SeeDrive Vutest. This is an on-screen version you can do using a PC or tablet.
The Importance of Regular Eyesight Tests
According to the Road Safety Observatory, in 2011, 5,285 drivers and motorcyclists had their licences revoked because they were unable to pass a standard eye test.
The importance of having regular eyesight tests therefore cannot be over-emphasised, and not only for driving reasons. Eye tests can often be a good indicator of other underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, so a periodic visit to the optician could be a lifesaver in more ways than one.
Never assume that your eyesight is the same as it was years ago. Vision can start to deteriorate as young as the age of 30, and sometimes even earlier than that.
Just because there is no legal requirement to take an eye test for driving purposes after you pass your first driving test until you reach the age of 70, this should not be construed as meaning there is no need to keep a regular check on your eyesight.
Remember, the police are within their rights to stop any driver they suspect may not meet the legal eyesight standards required for driving.
Think about your safety, that of other road users and the fact that your motor insurance could be invalid if you cannot meet the required eyesight standard for driving.