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

Take number plate eyesight test, urges DVLA, as half of all motorists unaware of 20m rule

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


THE DRIVER and Vehicle Licensing Agency is encouraging more road users to regularly have their eyesight tested, as part of a new road safety awareness campaign.

Set to run throughout this summer, the government agency’s “EYE 735T” campaign will place a particular emphasis on encouraging motorists to take the “number plate eye test”, where road users can determine if they can clearly read a vehicle’s registration plate within the legal minimum distance.

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.

New data from the DVLA that suggests over half of all motorists are unaware of the 20m requirement.

Only 5% of respondents to the DVLA survey revealed they use a tool such as a tape measure to determine the distance, with a further 43% admitting they’d estimate the distance using car lengths or foot steps as a reference.

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”.

You don’t need to tell DVLA if you have poor vision without glasses or contact lenses, or sight in only one eye, as long as you’re still able to meet the standards above with appropriate eyewear.

However, if you have any medical condition that affects your driving and haven’t told the DVLA, you can be fined up to £1,000 and may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result.

If in doubt, the DVLA says to ask your GP, optician or eye specialist. Dr Wyn Parry, the DVLA’s Senior Doctor, said:

“Having good eyesight is essential for safe driving, so it’s really important for drivers to have regular eye tests. Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time so anyone concerned about their eyesight should visit their optician.

“The number plate test is a simple and effective way for people to check their eyesight meets the required standards for driving.  It’s an easy check to perform any time of day at the roadside and takes just a couple of seconds.”