Eyes and your Sight
As a minimum legal requirement, motorists must be able to read a numberplate from a distance of 20.5 metres (67 feet) and have a 120 degree wide field of view. This test is normally only carried out officially at the time of the driving test itself and recent research has shown that more than 10 per cent of drivers would fail a driving test if they re-took it today because of poor eyesight.
In law it is a driver's responsibility to ensure that they can pass the numberplate test at all times. They must also be able to see clearly out of the corners of their eyes, see clearly at night and not have double vision. It's important to remember that if you fail to meet these visual standards you are breaking the law every time you start your engine.
For drivers, the importance of having a regular eye examination (at least every two years) is obvious, particularly bearing in mind that people's eyesight changes over time. If you do need to wear spectacles or contact lenses to meet the visual standard for driving, it's vital to ensure you wear them at all times. This may sound obvious but every day tens of thousands of motorists drive without their glasses because of vanity, or because they have forgotten them, or because they are only driving a short distance. No matter what the reason, these people are breaking the law and are a potential danger to themselves and other road users.
Normal or Corrected Sight
All applicants, for any category of vehicle, must be able to read in good light with glasses or corrective lenses if necessary, a number plate at 20.5 metres (67 feet) or 20 metres (65 feet), where narrower characters are displayed (50mm wide). The characters displayed on all new and replacement number plates manufactured from September 2001 are 50mm in width instead of 57mm.
In addition, applicants for medium/large goods or passenger carrying vehicle entitlements must by law have:
- A visual acuity of at least 6/9 in the better eye; and
- A visual acuity of at least 6/12 in the worse eye; and
- If these are achieved by correction, the uncorrected visual acuity in each eye must be no less than 3/60
An applicant who held a licence before 1 January 1997 and who has an uncorrected acuity of less than 3/60 in only one eye may be able to meet the required standard and should check with Drivers Medical Group, DVLA, Swansea SA99 1TU, or telephone 0300 790 6807, about the requirement.
An applicant who has held an LGV/PCV (formerly HGV/PSV) licence before 1 March 1992 but who does not meet the standard as laid out above may still qualify for a licence. Information about the standard and other requirements can be obtained from Drivers Medical Group, (address as above).
Car licence holders renewing 3.5 - 7.5 tonne vehicle and minibus entitlement(s) are required to meet the numberplate test and, in addition, minibus entitlement requires the eyesight standard set out as above to be met.
Normal binocular field
The 2nd E.C. Directive requires a normal binocular field of vision for Group 2 drivers.
Drivers who have monocular vision are barred in law from holding C, C1 (12 tonnes combined), D or D1 entitlements. The only exceptions are those drivers whose C or D entitlements had been issued prior to 1/1/91 in the knowledge of monocularity and were still in force on 1/4/91 or drivers who passed a C1 test prior to 1/1/97.
A minimum acuity of 6/12 is required if licensed on 1/1/1983 and 6/9 if since. A certificate of recent driving experience will also be required. DVLA will send this certificate to you for completion on receipt of a valid application.
Drivers whose best vision in one eye has deteriorated since the previous application to less than 3/60 will be considered functionally monocular and a Group 2 licence will be refused.
Uncontrolled symptoms of double vision
Uncontrolled symptoms of double vision precludes licensing. As monocularity is a bar, the treatment of double vision with a patch is not acceptable for Group 2 driving. An applicant who is in doubt about the required eyesight standard should check with Drivers Medical Group, DVLA, Swansea SA99 1TU or telephone 0870 600 0301.
An applicant (or existing licence holder) failing to meet epilepsy, diabetes or eyesight regulations must be refused by law.
The information laid out above has been reproduced from the DVLA Medical Examination Report D4 (Information and Useful notes) and the Eyecare Trust. You can download these notes from the link below which is in pdf format. For other information regarding eyesight requirements for driver licensing and general eye care, please use the links below.
Caring for your sight - The Eyecare Trust
Your eyes to Drive - Driving Expert