Don't swerve a sight test: be clear on the facts about vision and driving!
Today I thought I would talk about the vision standards for driving in the UK which are set by the DVLA, and which every driver is legally required to meet. Advising patients with regards to vision and driving is such an important part of my job as an Optometrist, however it is probably one of the parts of my job which I enjoy the least.
It is never nice to have to advise somebody that they should stop driving, as driving is an important part of life for many of us. It allows us to work and also to visit family and friends, but most importantly for a lot of people it allows them to hold on to their independence.
Often when I advise patients that they do not meet the standard for driving they will become a little defensive, and tell me that their vision is "perfect for driving" and that they can "see for miles". Unfortunately the DVLA's standard is not measured on how good an individual perceives their vision to be, but what their Optometrist or other medical professional can measure on a sight test chart.
The best thing to do if you are unsure about your vision and driving is to come and see us at Bennett & Batty Opticians. We can advise you on how your vision compares to the driving standard and also provide either glasses or contact lenses for driving if required.
Here are a few quick facts on vision and driving in the UK (courtesy of the Association of Optometrists):
30% of road users have doubted whether their vision is good enough, yet continued to drive.
26% say they’ve delayed getting their eyes checked by an optometrist despite suspecting their vision was getting worse, and 6% admit to stalling a sight test for more than a year.
Less than half (40%) would stop driving if they were told their vision, even with glasses or contact lenses, was below the legal standard for driving. With 10% saying that they would continue to drive as normal.
16% admit to knowing a driver whose sight they believe to be below the legal vision standard.
The first and most important thing to mention is that it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to ensure that you meet the legal driving standard of vision. The second is that if you continue to drive with the knowledge that you do not meet the DVLA standard YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW.
Not sure what the driving standard actually is? Well look no further as there is a quick guide below:
The DVLA's vision standard is measured in two ways:
1. Visual acuity
- This is tested on a Snellen chart and measures how small a letter you can read at a certain distance (usually 6 metres). Drivers in the UK must be able to see at least Snellen 6/12 with both eyes open or with one eye if monocular.
- If you want to test this yourself at home you must be able to read in good daylight a car number plate at 20 metres (for a car registered since 1st September 2001) or 20.5 metres (for a car registered before 1st September 2001).
2. Visual field
- This is tested on a visual field machine and measures how wide (vertically and horizontally) you can see. Drivers in the UK must have a visual field of at least 120° horizontally measured using an Estermann visual field test. The field of vision must extend at least 50° left and right and there should be no significant defect in the binocular field that encroaches within 20° of the fixation above or below the horizontal meridian.
It is hard to measure your field of vision at home, however most people can assume that they probably meet this standard unless they have other medical conditions such as glaucoma or a previous stroke which may have affected their visual field. If in doubt - ask your Optometrist!
NB. Please remember that for Group 2 Bus and Lorry drivers there is a different standard of vision that must be met. For more information please follow the link to the DVLA website at the bottom of the page.
What if I have an eye health or general health condition?
There are many health conditions that affect a persons ability to drive. Some conditions must be declared to the DVLA whilst others do not have to be reported. For a full list of which conditions affect vision and driving and more information on which conditions must be reported to the DVLA please follow the link at the bottom of the page.
You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving. You may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result.
One of the most important conditions to mention today is one of our BIG FOUR eye conditions - cataract! Cataract is an example of an eye condition which can progress very, very slowly meaning that my patients often don't notice that their vision has changed until the late stages of the condition. Patients with cataract often perceive their vision to be better than it actually is. They can also suffer with increased glare, and reduced contrast and visual acuity. These symptoms are exacerbated by dark lighting conditions and poor weather conditions. This means that a patient with cataract may pass the legal driving standard on a brightly lit summers day however fail the standard on a dark rainy winters evening. The best advice - if you don't feel safe to drive then don't do it!
My Top Tip - Even if you don't require glasses for driving it is always handy to be safe and keep a pair of sunglasses in the car for the low summer evening sun and winter morning glare. The BEST type of sunglasses to wear are polarized as they cut out the glare much better than normal non-polarized versions! Wearing sunglasses will make you a safer driver as you won't have to keep ducking underneath your sun visor to see where you are going (yes, you know who you are!) and wont be dazzled by the horrible glare caused by the low sun at different times of the year! At Bennett & Batty we have a large range of sunglasses so don't be afraid to pop in and say hello if you want some more information, we also make a cracking cup of tea!
So that's all for today! All I have left to say is book that sight test today if you are unsure about your vision, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Drive carefully!!
Rebecca : )
For more information about which medical conditions must be reported to the DVLA visit: https://www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving
For more information on the AOP's Don't swerve a sight test campaign visit: