DVLA encourages road users to regularly take the number plate eyesight test

Half of motorists are unaware of this rule - are you one of them?

You could be fined £1,000 and prosecuted if eyesight doesn't meet the requirements

BEING ABLE to clearly see the road ahead is obviously an extremely important part of driving, but just what are the rules surrounding driver eyesight in the UK?

The law is crystal clear on the topic in that it sets out a minimum eyesight standard for drivers, and if a driver is caught by the police with their eyesight below the minimum standard their licence can be immediately revoked. Poor vision also increases the risk of a collision and if sub-standard eyesight is found to be a contributing factor in an accident, the consequences can be very serious.

With all that in mind, let’s take a 20:20 look at the rules on driver eyesight.

What are the driving eyesight rules? 

The law says that:

  • You must be able to read a car number plate from 20 metres away (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary).
  • Car drivers must also have a “visual acuity” of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12), measured on the Snellen scale, using both eyes together (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary). If you have sight in one eye only, then that eye must meet the standard. The rules for lorry drivers are different (see here).
  • You must also have an adequate field of vision, which can be determined by an optician.

What are the dangers of driving below the legal eyesight standard? 

Drivers with reduced vision are at greater risk of collision with a pedestrian or another vehicle. If a driver cannot read the road far enough ahead, they’re less likely to see pedestrians, animals, parked cars or other vehicles’ brake lights until the last moment, which reduces their reaction times and increases the danger of a crash. Drivers with poor peripheral vision may have difficulty in seeing vehicles overtaking them or approaching from the side. Additionally, eyesight problems leading to poor depth perception can make it hard to judge stopping and parking distances.

Is my eyesight good enough to drive? 

If your eyesight meets the legal requirements for driving (above), then yes. If in doubt, have your vision professionally tested by an optician.

When will my vision be tested for driving? 

At the start of your practical driving test, you have to correctly read a number plate on a parked vehicle. If you cannot, you’ll fail your driving test, and the test will not continue. The DVLA will be told and your licence will be revoked.

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When you reapply for your driving licence, the DVLA will ask you to have an eyesight test with the DVSA. This will be at a driving test centre. If you’re successful, you’ll still have to pass the DVSA standard eyesight test at your next practical driving test.

Can I be fined for driving with bad eyesight? 

If your eyesight falls below the minimum standard and you fail to inform the DVLA, you can be fined up to £1,000 and may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result. Drivers can have their licences immediately revoked if they fail a police roadside eye test.

How do you know if you need glasses for driving? 

The police roadside eye test is the same as the eyesight test at the beginning of a practical driving test in that it asks a driver to read a car number plate from 20 metres away. If you’re struggling to read number plates from that distance and if they’re starting to appear a little fuzzy, then you almost certainly need glasses or contact lenses for driving.

How often should I get an eyesight test? 

The College of Optometrists recommends that people over the age of 16 should get an eye test every two years and more frequently if they have eye problems. Another way to check your eyesight purely for driving purposes is to attempt the police roadside test yourself. Though a measuring tool will obviously be the most accurate way of determining the distance, the DVLA does still advise using a row of five parked cars or eight parking bays as an alternative “easy way to measure the distance.”

Do I need to tell the DVLA if I’m colour blind? 

No, you don’t need to inform the DVLA if you’re colour blind. Nor do you need to inform them if you need glasses to meet the minimum eyesight standard — as long as the glasses enable you to meet or exceed the standard, you’re fine.