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Vision for Drivers – The Facts

Good eyesight is essential for safe driving and poor vision can impair your driving performance. You are responsible for ensuring that your vision meets the specified minimum requirements every time that you drive. If you notice or suspect any change in your vision, do not delay, visit your optometrist or optician.

Drivers eye testIf advised to wear spectacles or contact lenses for driving (or distance vision) you should wear them at all times when driving.

The current UK standard for Group 1 (car and motorcycle) drivers is the ability to read in good light (with the aid of spectacles or contact lenses, if worn) a number plate at:

  • 20m for vehicles displaying the new-style number plate
  • 20.5m for vehicles displaying the old-style number plate

Different standards apply to Group 2 (lorry and bus) drivers, who require a documented assessment of vision to renew their licence.

It is a criminal offence to drive with eyesight below the legal standard.

10 Key Facts for Drivers

  1. Your vision can change at any age and at any stage in your driving career. Have your eyes tested regularly, at least every two years, unless advised otherwise by your optometrist.
  2. Commonly reported problems include not seeing road or street signs, and difficulties driving in twilight or night conditions, which might indicate an underlying eye condition or disease.
  3. Some eye conditions do not demonstrate symptoms in the early stages so regular sight testing is important to ensure early detection and access to treatment.
  4. The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) estimates that, if detected early, half of sight loss can be avoided.
  5. You must notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of any medical condition which may affect safe driving.
  6. Loss of vision in one eye, loss of peripheral vision (visual field) and double vision can severely affect your ability to drive, even though you may pass the number plate test.
  7. Eye diseases and conditions that affect vision can occur at any age, although they are more common in people aged over 60, and other groups such as those with a family history of glaucoma and those with diabetes.
  8. Drivers aged 70 years and over must renew their license every 3 years and declare that they still meet the medical standards to drive including the vision standard.
  9. Visit your optometrist or optician for more information on vision and driving, including the best type of lenses, frames, sunglasses and lens coatings for driving.
  10. A clean windscreen, on the inside and outside, makes it easier to see what is ahead.

Produced by the Optical Confederation

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