Vision and driving

It’s important to see properly to be a safe driver. That’s why the practical car test requires would-be drivers to accurately read a number plate 20 metres away, before they can pass. For those who are already drivers, you always need to be able to see properly to be legally allowed to drive.

What should drivers do?

Around half of UK drivers don’t realise that to drive legally their vision must keep meeting the government’s minimum Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) standard. The DVLA recommends that drivers take steps to meet the legal minimum standards.

  • Drivers should keep checking that they can read a number plate 20 meters away, and if they can’t read it they should not drive and should see an optician.
  • Drivers should get their sight tested regularly to continue to be able to drive safely, since vision can change over time.

A basic eye examination to ensure you are safe to drive is free for NHS patients.

Minimum standards for UK drivers’ sight

  • You must be able to read a number plate 20 metres away – that’s 65 feet or roughly 5 car lengths.
  • You must wear glasses or contact lenses every time you drive, if you need them to meet the sight standards for driving.
  • You must have accurate central vision and an adequate field of vision (with glasses or contact lenses if necessary), which is something the Optometrist checks in an eye examination.
  • For those reaching 70 years old your driving license automatically expires but you can renew it every three years, free of charge. This requires you to confirm that you remain fit to drive, including being able to see properly.

Driving in France?

You’re probably familiar with the need to carry various documents (like the V5 log book) and safety kit (such as a warning triangle) to avoid on the spot fines. But you should also know that drivers who wear glasses are required to have a spare pair of spectacles in the car when they drive in France.

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