Drivers must meet eye-sight requirements or face a £1000 punishment

A man holding up his glasses in front of his face

If you are found to be driving without meeting specific eyesight standards, then you could be fined £1000 and given three penalty points on your licence, according to the DVLA.

Participants are asked to correctly read a number plate on a parked vehicle at the start of a practical driving test. 

If you cannot, it will result in an automatic fail without even stepping foot inside the car, and your licence will be revoked. 

You could be driving illegally and can be prosecuted if your eyesight deteriorates after you’ve passed your test. 

According to the DVLA: “You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.

“You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye.”

Drivers must also have an “adequate field of vision,” which can be assessed at an optometrist, according to the DVLA website. 

If your eyesight has changed or you have a medical condition and the DVLA aren’t told, you can be fined up to £1000 or issued points on your licence. 

The website says you must tell the DVLA if you:

  • Have a certain type of eye condition that affects both eyes (or one eye when you only have vision in one eye)
  • Have been told you may not meet the visual standards for driving by a GP, optician or eye specialist

There are also certain eye conditions you must tell DVLA about:

  • Blepharospasm
  • Diabetic retinopathy (with laser treatment)
  • Diplopia (double vision)
  • Glaucoma
  • Nyctalopia (night blindness)
  • Retinitis pigmentosa

Tips to protect your eyesight when driving

In order to come up with some advice on how to safeguard your eyesight while driving, the car leasing firm Hippo Leasing consulted an optometrist and a clinical advisor from the Association of Optometrists.

Wear prescription glasses and sunglasses when driving 

Many people who are short-sighted will need to wear glasses while driving in order to see the road well.

According to the DVLA, “You must wear glasses or contact lenses every time you drive if you need them to meet the ‘standards of vision for driving’”. 

Hippo Leasing said to keep a pair of prescription glasses in your car so you don’t forget them and “opt for no-glare polarised sunglasses that are ideal for driving as they’ll prevent glare from objects or the road”. 

Reduce the risk of dry eyes when concentrating on the road by using eyedrops 

Roshni Kanabar, an Optometrist at the Association of Optometrists (AOP), said: “We generally tend to blink a lot less whilst concentrating which can lead to the natural coating of the tears over your eyes, to start to evaporate, making them dry and uncomfortable.

“Drivers must consider what makes them most comfortable, especially when driving long distances. For example, try and remember to blink, and it’s important to take regular breaks on your journey.” 

If you get dry eyes when driving, it’s advised to use moisturising eye drops to keep your eyes feeling comfortable.

Use the in-built car visor to block out harmful UV rays

Pull down the built-in car visor to further shield your eyes from the intense light if sunglasses aren’t providing enough shade; just make sure it doesn’t obstruct your vision of the road.

Keep the windscreen wash topped up to clear any obstructions to vision

Due to the accumulation of dirt on a car’s windscreen from rain, insects, and wet roads, your ability to see the road may be impaired. Screenwash can help remove this dirt.

Mr Kanabar added: “Glare and dazzle are often a common reason for reduced visibility – a dirty windscreen can affect this so cleaning your car windows inside and out can make a huge difference.”  

According to Regulation 30 of The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations of 1986, drivers are required to keep all glass free from impediment while driving. Failure to do so might result in a £1,000 punishment.

Install a £5 tinted strip on the windshield for extra protection against UV rays

Another way to protect your eyes from the sun is to install a tinted strip on the top of the windscreen.

You can buy a self-clinging sun strip to add to your vehicle for under £5.

Take a break when travelling long distances to avoid eyestrain

According to Rule 91 of the Highway Code, a break of at least 15 minutes should be taken every two hours on a long-distance journey.

More than two hours of continuous driving might result in eye strain, which can induce headaches, eye pain, and unsafe exhaustion.

Tom Preston, founder of Hippo Leasing, says: “Our eyesight is precious and we should all be taking the steps necessary to to protect it at all costs.

“It is dangerous to drive with impaired vision and you could be putting yourself and other people’s lives at risk when you can’t view the road clearly, read road signs properly, or see potential hazards.”

Mr Kanabar added: “Aside from being able to see a good level of detail, which is important for things like reading road signs, it means you can also spot objects moving in your peripheral vision, such as cyclists coming out of side roads, and to be able to detect objects which don’t stand out clearly from the background – enabling you to anticipate what’s about to happen and adapt your driving to the situation.

“Whether you wear glasses or not – regular sight tests are vital for drivers. This is because your optometrist will test your vision as well as examine the health of your eyes.

“You should have a sight test every two years, or more often if your optometrist recommends it.”

If you need to take an eye test then head over to the Driving Instructors Association to purchase a Specsavers Driver Eye Care voucher.

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