Whether you’re an HGV driver or you just use your car to get to the shops and back, good vision is essential for all road users. But how good is good enough? Don’t get caught out: make sure your eyesight meets the minimum legal requirements to stay safe and drive legally.
What the law says
Your driving licence gives you the green light to drive, as long as you can read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres away. (You might recall having to do this as part of your driving test.) If you can only do this with the aid of glasses or contact lenses, this must be declared on your licence and you must always wear them when you drive.
There are some other stipulations, too. Car drivers must have visual acuity measured at 6/12 or above. That means that in an eye test, you must be able to read the fifth line from the bottom of the chart. Lorry drivers are held to higher standards of visual acuity and must also have a good field of vision, which will be re-tested at regular intervals – the Gov.uk website goes through this in detail.
- If your vision changes and you develop a problem with your eyesight, it is a legal requirement to tell the DVLA.
- There are certain medical conditions affecting eyesight that the DVLA must be informed of. These include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and glaucoma.
- If you drive without meeting the minimum vision requirements, your insurance may be invalid.
If your vision falls below legal standards
Driving is an essential part of many people’s lives, so if your eyesight gets worse it can be a worry. The first thing to do is to get your eyes checked so that you know exactly where you stand. Your optometrist will let you know if you need a new glasses prescription or further treatment. If your eyesight falls below the necessary standard, you must inform the DVLA and give up your licence.
Laser eye surgery and driving
If you have had laser eye surgery and can meet the standards for driving without the aid of glasses or contacts when you take your test, there’s no need to declare your surgery. However, if your existing licence states that glasses must be worn, the DVLA will need to be informed so that they can update their records. Don’t forget to also tell your insurance company.
If you are a professional driver, you should also inform your employer that you have had laser eye surgery. Even if you meet legal standards for vision and driving, they may have their own internal tests or standards that you need to pass before getting back on the road.
Immediately after any form of eye surgery, you’ll need time to recover and won’t be able to drive. Wait until your surgeon gives you the all clear; for most people, this is usually a matter of days.