Tips & advice

Driving eyesight rules explained

What is the minimum vision standard required to drive on UK roads? And how can you check your own eyesight before driving?

eyesight

Your eyes are obviously a crucial tool for driving a car safely, and the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency) lays down detailed rules describing the standards of vision required for driving a car in the UK.

Drivers have their vision checked when they take their driving test, but from that point on, it’s the responsibility of individual drivers to report any problems that develop with their eyesight to the DVLA. You should NOT drive a car if you believe that your eyesight may fall below the required standard. If you need to confirm that your eyesight is up to standard, visit an optician, and definitely do not drive there, no matter how far.

Standards of vision required for driving

The basic eyesight standard required for driving is simple. To drive a car legally in the UK you must be able to read a car number plate from a distance of 20 metres. 

If you need to wear glasses or contact lenses for driving, you should be wearing them when you attempt to read the number plate, and the number plate should be of the current design that’s been standard on UK cars since September 2001.

In addition to this basic requirement, you must have a visual acuity measurement of at least 6/12 (or 0.5) on the Snellen scale, again while wearing any glasses or contact lenses that you need for driving.

While this sounds ominous, if you’ve visited an optician, the Snellen scale will be familiar to you as the wall chart with the rows of letters or numbers that get smaller as you read down. This chart is used to measure visual acuity, your central vision that you use to see detail.

Emissions - clean air zones

Normal visual acuity is called 6/6, which means that from 6 metres away (the first number) you can read all 6 lines of the chart. Someone who could only read the first line of the chart would receive a rating of 6/60 which means that from 6 metres they could only read what someone with normal vision could read from 60 metres away. If the second line of the chart is the ‘36’ line, someone with standard vision could read it from 36 metres, but if your Snellen score was 6/36 you would only be able to read it from 6 metres.

The 6/12 minimum vision standard for driving a car in the UK means that you can read from 6 metres what someone with standard vision could read from 12. This is half the distance, hence the conversion to the decimal 0.5.

Driving test eyesight check

Before your practical driving test, the examiner will test your eyesight by asking you to read the number plate of a parked vehicle that’s 20 metres away. If you can’t do this, then your test is immediately over and you will not be permitted to drive the car. Your provisional driving licence will also be revoked.

If you reapply for your driving licence, the DVLA will ask you to take a full eye test with the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) which will take place at a local driving test centre. You’ll have to pass this before you get your licence back and then pass the number plate eye test before you take your practical driving test. 

Online driving eyesight tests

There are a number of online driving eyesight tests that you can find on the Internet that may give you some idea if there is a problem with your eyesight. However these have no diagnostic value and should not be taken as the only indication of whether you’re safe to drive.

A better course of action is to test yourself by trying to read a car number plate from 20 metres and contacting your doctor and the DVLA if you struggle to do so. 

What if there’s a problem with your eyesight? 

There is no mandatory retesting of driver’s eyesight in the UK, and it is the driver’s responsibility to report any deterioration in their eyesight to the DVLA. If you believe that your eyesight has diminished to the point that you are no longer safe to drive, or if you have any concerns that this could be the case, you should not drive a car. See a doctor and have your eyesight evaluated before getting behind the wheel.

If you do not tell the DVLA about any medical condition that affects your driving, you could be liable for a fine of up to £1,000 and you could be prosecuted if you are involved in an accident.

The DVLA publishes a list of health conditions that can affect your driving that may be useful to check whether you need to contact them. If there’s any doubt, however, contact your doctor before driving.

Eyesight tests for HGV and bus drivers

The eyesight standards required to drive an HGV or a bus in the UK are more stringent than for cars. To get your HGV licence, you must have a visual acuity of at least 6/7.5 (or 0.8) on the Snellen scale in your best eye. Your worst eye must be at least 6/60 (or 0.1).

If you take the test wearing glasses, their corrective power can’t be more than 8 dioptres and you must have an uninterrupted visual field of at least 160 degrees. This field of vision must include an extension of at least 70 degrees left and right plus at least 30 degrees down. 

Do you think drivers should be made to take eye tests? Let us know in the comments below...

Recommended

Cheapest cars to insure in the UK 2022
Cheapest cars to insure - header
Car insurance

Cheapest cars to insure in the UK 2022

Looking for a car that’s cheap to insure? We’ve listed cars with the cheapest insurance group ratings on sale in the UK today
27 May 2022
Intensive driving courses: the ultimate guide
Prodrive Winter Driving Course
First Cars

Intensive driving courses: the ultimate guide

Are intensive driving courses a good way to get a driving licence? We guide you through the options to help you pass the practical test.
13 Apr 2022
The Highway Code: What is it and how do I learn it?
Highway Code
First Cars

The Highway Code: What is it and how do I learn it?

What you need to know about the Highway Code, where to find it and how to use it to pass your driving test
12 Apr 2022
Top 10 best learner driver cars 2022
Best cars for learner drivers - header image
First Cars

Top 10 best learner driver cars 2022

Easy to drive, affordable, and inexpensive to run, these are our top 10 used cars to learn in.
11 Feb 2022

Most Popular

Citroen Ami on sale in the UK this summer from £7,695
Citroen Ami UK - front static
Citroen Ami

Citroen Ami on sale in the UK this summer from £7,695

The compact quadricycle is pricier than first thought, but the Citroen Ami will still be the UK’s cheapest ‘car’
24 May 2022
New Toyota GR86 2022 review
Toyota GR86
Toyota GR86

New Toyota GR86 2022 review

The GT86 has evolved into the GR86, gaining a bigger engine, a stiffer shell and chassis tweaks. Is it now affordable sports car perfection?
26 May 2022
New SsangYong Musso Saracen 2022 review
SsangYong Musso Saracen - front tracking
SsangYong Musso

New SsangYong Musso Saracen 2022 review

The 2022 SsangYong Musso pickup features sharper looks and a new diesel engine
25 May 2022