Driving is a skill and one many of us on the roads perhaps take for granted. We get in, belt up, start the car and just go. If you broke it down though, the number of things you need to be aware of shows just how much you need to concentrate. Your eyes, especially, have to focus on so much, so often.
That is why every driver needs to meet certain eyesight requirements to be allowed on the roads. But what are they? Current regulations state that you must be able to read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres. This can be done with glasses or contact lenses should you require them. There is more to it than that though and in the blog this month we look at what else you need for your eyesight to be suitable for your driving on British roads.
Current rules issued by the UK authorities have three key points to them. Being found to be in breach of them could see you prosecuted and almost certainly lose your licence or at least receive points on it.
The three eyesight requirements for driving in the UK are:
For each of these, glasses or contact lenses may be worn. Should you wear glasses, they must not have a strength of more than +8. Contact lenses on the other hand have no such limits.
If your glasses or contact lenses are what bring your eyesight up to the required level, then it is a legal requirement that you must wear them at all times whilst driving.
In addition to the above, bus and lorry drivers must have an uninterrupted horizontal visual field of 160 degrees with an extension of at least 70 degrees left and right and 30 degrees up and down. No defect should be present within a radius of the central 30 degrees.
The Snellen Scale allows opticians to measure your ability to read letters, numbers, or symbols on a chart where they diminish in size as you go down the page. The minimum standard for driving is 6/12 on the Snellen Scale meaning that you can see 6 metres where someone with what is classed as normal eyesight could see at 12 metres. It is slightly different for lorry and bus drivers though. Their results must show a reading of at least 0.8 on the Snellen Scale which equates to a 6/7.5. This means that what you can see at 6 metres, is what a person with normal sighting will see from 7.5 metres.
Your eyesight is tested before your practical driving test begins and if you fail to meet the current legal requirements, you will be awarded an automatic fail. You will be asked to read a number plate from 20 metres away in line with the regulations.
If you cannot do so, you will need to apply again for your test and as a result, complete an eye test issued by the DVSA. If you pass this, you will be able to complete your driving practical test.
The safest way to ensure you pass and save yourself from the inconvenience of having to attend, fail, book again and then hopefully pass, is to make sure your eye tests are up to date.
It is important to keep on top of eye tests. Your eyes, over time, lose a degree of their quality. Your visibility will gradually deteriorate and can go from being well within the limits for driving to falling outside of them fairly quickly. The NHS recommends an eye test every two years. This way any problems can be addressed quickly and keep you compliant with the rules of the road. If you feel your sight doesn’t seem quite right, book an appointment with your optician. If you are aged over 70, you naturally need to reapply for your driver’s license every three years and whilst no sight test is included in the reapplication, it would always be worth having the eyes retested at this stage.
Certain eye conditions require you to inform the DVLA. Without doing so, you could find yourself in serious trouble and possibly have your licence taken away, fined up to £1,000 or have penalty points added to your licence.
The government has put together an in-depth A-Z list of conditions that could affect drivers and an online service that allows you to check whether the condition you have needs reporting.
If you are the driver of a car or rider of a motorbike, you should use this to check your condition and see whether it should be reported. Following the instructions the site gives you, you can then report the condition to the DVLA.
If you hold a licence to drive a bus or lorry, you cannot report your condition online. You can use the list to check for it but must follow the link to the relevant form to report it.
Long-sightedness, short-sightedness or colour blindness will not require you to inform the DVLA but you will need to ensure you are wearing the correct prescription glasses when driving.
At present the rules state that you can drive with one eye as long as you pass the relevant sight tests and only hold a non-commercial licence.
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