New eyesight test changes loom as DVSA tightens UK driving regulations

Senior man adjusting sunglasses while traveling in car

Motorists have been told to prepare for law changes requiring extensive eyesight tests to drive on Britain’s roads.

As the DVSA tightens driving regulations, experts from LeaseCar.uk have cautioned that drivers who have poor night vision risk having their licences withdrawn.

With 17 million drivers in the UK having night vision problems, the new tests may result in more licences being revoked than ever before. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has released its business strategy for 2023–2024, which includes a review of the way that eye tests are now conducted.

Currently, in good light, drivers must be able to read a licence plate from 20 metres away to pass the eye test. The absence of varying light levels is one of the possible difficulties with the way the eyesight test is conducted, according to a public consultation.

In order to evaluate a more accurate eyesight test during a driving test that satisfies the necessary requirements, the DVSA is currently working with a DVLA Medical Panel. Currently, it is against the law for an examiner to check eyesight in bad weather or before sunrise or after sunset.

The good daylight aspect may soon be dropped in favour of more trustworthy testing to ensure drivers’ eyesight is adequate at all times in an effort to make the roads safer. While details of the new eyesight exam are still pending, experts at LeaseCar.uk believe regular, required eyesight exams in low light may be implemented.

The ability to see in the dark is impacted by a variety of eye diseases, and older drivers are more likely to have deteriorating night vision. Drivers are already required by law to notify the DVLA of any vision loss or certain eye disorders; failing to do so may result in a fine of £1000 and a driving ban.

The DVSA hopes the changes coming into place in 2024 will create safer and more sustainable journeys. Tim Alcock from LeaseCar.uk, said: “The skills needed to drive in the dark are different from those needed in daylight, which means more people than ever could see their licences revoked if they fail a potentially new eyesight test.

“Although we don’t know exactly what the new rules will be, the DVSA has highlighted the lack of light levels in current eye tests as a problem. The current eyesight tests only require reading a number plate from 20 metres in good daylight, and it’s not a true reflection of someone’s visibility.

“A staggering 17 million drivers in the UK admit to having trouble seeing in the dark, which could be a huge problem if this new eyesight test is introduced. We expect they could also take a toll on the number of eligible elderly drivers, who are more likely to have eye conditions and fading night vision.

“If you notice a change in vision or struggle to drive in the dark, it is important to get checked by a professional and inform the DVLA.”

5 thoughts on “New eyesight test changes loom as DVSA tightens UK driving regulations”

  1. And about time too! The UK is amongst the worst countries for eyesight testing for driving.
    10% – that is 3 million drivers can’t read a number plate at 20 metres (source: olderdriversforum).

  2. leasecar.uk is claiming that 17m drivers are having “night vision problems” – where does the number come from? There is no reference point, no background. If this is correct, nearly half the driving population has problems, if you believe the RAC Foundation claim there was 34.8m drivers in 2021 (taken from Nation Travel Survey).

    Personally, I find many of the modern day headlights cause vision problems when seen from certain angles – is this a fault with my vision or the design of modern headlights? Is it my age, or was it easier on my eyes in the days halogen/filament headlamps?

    In regards to the rest of the article, personally, licence holders should have certificate from an optician prior to issue and on a regular basis there after – may be when our card licence is renewed every 10 years (every 3 after 70 years of age).

  3. Where do you get 17 million drivers admit to having trouble seeing in the dark?
    That’s close to half the driving population of the UK.
    I agree with eyesight testing, which could be done as part of licence renewal when expiring due to photo (which should be every 5 years) or normal expiry dates due age or medical conditions.
    However, numerous drivers don’t like driving in the dark per se and choose not to. Those drivers who suffer night blindness should have a restricted licence allowing them to drive during daylight hours only. This could be linked to vehicles that they own and included in ANPR checks. If other drivers have use of the vehicles it could be included on the system. Only a thought.

  4. Christy Lamport

    The main issue I see in night driving are the excessively brighter headlights which I’m sure can’t be legal. I drive a LED headlight car which doesn’t expand very far on main beam, whereas my 14 plate with normal lights I can see much better, so I drive this car in the dark and not the 21 plate car at night, because iI feel safer for all road users and not just myself!

  5. Kevan Chippindall-Higgin

    At a DIA conference some years ago, DVLA sent down a medical panel and I raised the question of the road side eye test. Very simply, it is extraordinarily difficult to check eye sight at the side of the road.

    As usual, government is trying to short cut matters. What is actually needed is a proper eye test, by all means incorporating a night vision element, at photo card or licence renewal time. Drivers have a unique driver number, so there is little chance of getting things muddled there. As for the opticians, use the MoT station model, with each station and each tester having a unique ID number. Thus, an eye test would go straight through to DVLA with minimum fuss.

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