Your eyesight and driving rules

Whether you have been driving for many years or are just starting out on the journey, the rules which may affect you are regularly updated. These rules and requirements relate to vehicles and awareness of your surroundings. But these requirements can also apply to your vision and eyesight. Something a lot of motorists seem to overlook.

Opticians and the NHS recommend all drivers have a regular eye examination at least every two years. Whether prescription eyewear is required or not. GOV.UK guidelines also recommend having your eyes tested regularly. And in the interests of safety, accident, and recovery groups – such as the AA and the RAC – also advise motorists to maintain regular eye checks.

As this is a recommendation, drivers don’t have to provide evidence of having regular eye health check-ups. But they could be held liable if they’re in an accident, and it’s thought that poor eye health was a contributing factor.

The ’20 Metre’ test

A part of the regulations which is a legal requirement is the ‘20 metre test’. The 20-metre test, in summary, states that you must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) letters and numbers 79 mm high by 50 mm wide on a car number plate from 20 metres.

Drivers must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least 6/12 measured on the Snellen scale. You must also have an adequate field of vision, which your optician can tell you about, and they will routinely do a test to check for visual field defects.

Professional lorry and bus drivers must achieve a visual acuity of at least 6/7.5 measured on the Snellen scale in their best eye. Any driver unable to meet these standards must not drive and needs to notify the DVLA, which will refuse or revoke a licence, as applicable.

Read more about the driving eyesight rules here.

Driving with cataracts

Whilst it is often safe to drive – and the afflicted individual may not need to notify DVLA – the standards set out for all drivers above must be met. Patients who suffer from glare due to the development of their cataracts need to be more vigilant and aware of changes in their visual acuity.

Glare may counter an ability to pass the number plate test of the minimum requirements, even when cataracts allow the individual to see better than the Snellen chart guidance for their visual acuities.

Patients who have had cataract surgery and have experienced a change in prescription will be advised individually by their consultant whether it is safe to drive before their 6-week follow-up check with an optometrist.


Conditions which can restrict driving

Certain conditions can make driving more difficult. Nyctalopia is the inability to see well at night or in poor light, such as in a restaurant or movie theatre. It is often associated with being unable to adapt quickly from being in a well-illuminated environment to a poorly illuminated environment. If diagnosed, it is the individual’s responsibility to notify the DVLA, although their consultant may send a report to the DVLA, should they deem this appropriate.

When was the last time you visited an optician to get your eyes checked? If the answer is more than two years ago, we strongly advise making an appointment for a full eye examination. The examination normally takes between 30 to 40 minutes. Some people are exempt from paying, and their eye examinations can be covered under the NHS scheme.

To book a comprehensive eye test, please call 01858 433 577 and one of our friendly team will get you booked in. Otherwise, please complete the eye test booking form on our website and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Further reading:

What we offer our customers as an independent opticians

Why it’s important to have regular eye examinations

Road safety week highlights the benefits of regular eye tests

What to expect during your eye examination