Driving and vision
What considerations do people with sight problems need to make when driving?
It’s important to have your sight tested if you think you may have a problem with your eyesight, in fact, studies suggest that up to one in five middle aged drivers are taking to the road knowing their eyesight is not as good as it should be. It is not just common sense to ensure your eyesight is good enough to enable you to drive comfortably, but you will be breaking the law if it isn’t.
What is the legal responsibility?
A driver of a car or motorbike must be able to read a number plate, with symbols, 79mm high by 50mm wide, from a distance of 20 metres AND a driver should have a visual acuity of at least 6/12 with both eyes open. This can be done with glasses or contact lenses if you usually wear them. The law also requires drivers to have a wide field of vision, your optometrist will tell you if you may not meet the field of vision standard. Bus and Larry drivers are required to have a higher standard of vision.
If you are not able to do this, your insurance may be invalidated. Driving with uncorrected defective vision is an offence punishable with a heavy fine, penalty licence points and possible driving disqualification.
The eyesight test involving reading number plates is conducted as part of the driving test. As the law stands however, no further sight checks are needed until the driver reaches the age of 70, so the responsibility lies with you to ensure you wear corrective eyewear if necessary. Check your vision regularly by reading a number plate from a distance of 20 metres. If you notice any changes, visit your optometrist for an eye examination.
What if I have been diagnosed with glaucoma?
If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes, this will affect the amount you can see, and the law says that you must tell the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority). You may have to take some extra tests, but most people are still allowed to carry on driving. You can find out more at www.direct.gov.uk/driverhealth
How can people ensure their vision is roadworthy?
Always wear an up-to-date pair of glasses or contact lenses while driving, if they are needed, and go for a regular sight test to make sure your prescription is up to date. It’s a good idea to keep a spare pair of glasses in your vehicle too; in France and some other European countries drivers who wear glasses must, by law, carry a spare pair in the car. If possible, have an anti-reflection coat on your glasses and keep your car windscreen clean inside and out so you can see as clearly as possible.
What can occur specifically when driving at night to impact our driving?
Night driving is certainly more demanding than driving during the day; this is particularly true of older people, who may test well with their optometrist, but struggle to focus on the road at night. If you notice any particular difference in your vision when driving by night, it’s important to see your optometrist for advice. I would also point out that tinted lenses should not be used for night driving, and to make sure your windscreen is clean on the inside and outside.