When you passed your driving test your examiner tested your eye-sight by asking you to read a number plate at 20.5 metres. For 3% of drivers this is the only time their vision gets tested. A sobering thought is that allthough you may have regular sight tests and know you can see clearly, your fellow road users may not see you coming!
The DVLA has always placed the onus on drivers to regularly check that their vision meets the minimum standard for safe driving. Before May 1st 2012 that meant that drivers were expected to assess whether or not they could read a number plate at 20.5 metres. A driver who couldn't read the number plate was expected to stop driving or get a sight test and to wear glasses that restored clear vision. This caused optometrists some problems as whilst we could measure refractive error and advise whether a driver's vision could be improved we could not tell a patient if their vision was good enough to drive legally.
Since May 1st 2012, the DVLA amended the law so that drivers must be able to read a number plate at 20.5m and be able to read at least 6/12. As a result optometrists can now advise patients whether they need to wear spectacles to drive legally click here
- Drivers are required to notify the DVLA if their optometrist has advised them that they don't meet the legal minimum for driving vision.
- Drivers whose vision can be improved to give vision better than 6/12 should that take advantage of the edge this gives them over the driver who can't see them coming.
- If you have been prescribed glasses wear them – even if you are just popping down the road.
- Driving when you can't 'pass the number plate test' is a criminal act. You risk a 3-point penalty, having your license revoked, a criminal conviction, a £1000 fine and your Insurance company refusing to pay up.
Click here for some 'Key Facts for Drivers' and how common visual problems can affect driving.
Of course driving vision is not just about reading a number plate. Being able to see this size of detail gives a driver a good chance to react to what other road users are doing in their direct line of sight, but just as important is using peripheral vision to pick up potential hazards out-ot-the-corner-of your-eye.
Good central vision and peripheral attention are needed for situational awareness.