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Quite the headline I am sure you will agree, and yet each week many drivers make the decision to get behind the wheel, even though they know their vision has deteriorated. Some even make this decision after they have been advised by their Optician that they no longer reach the driving standards.

Key facts

  • In 2011, 5,285 drivers and motorcyclists had their licences revoked because they could not pass a standard eye test, an increase of 8% since 2010. (Road safety observatory, eyesight and driving, 2013).
  • A 2013 study by the College of Optometrists suggested that 2-3% of drivers have vision below the minimum standard.
  • A look at “Britain’s eye health in focus” by the College of Optometrists in 2013 also estimated that around three quarters of adults use corrective eyewear or contact lenses.
  • This same study found that 1 in 20 drivers could had not had an eye test in the past 10 years or couldn’t recall when they had last had one.
  • A 2014 study by Brake, the road safety charity, et el, found that 1 in 4 UK drivers hadn’t had a sight test in the last 2 years and that 4% (the equivalent of 1.5 million licence holders) have never had an eye examination.
  • DVLA statistics revealed in August 2019 that there are now twice as many drivers in their 80’s than teenagers on UK roads.

In this article we will look at what the legal requirements are, what will happen if you continue to drive despite substandard vision and when you should and how you can inform the DVLA.

The legal bit

Being able to legally meet the requirements to drive on UK roads is based on two points;

  • How well you can see; and
  • How much you can see around you.

The first is measured in two ways and although one is a self-assessment the other can only be achieved by a visit to your Optician.

Test one is whether you can read a number plate (in the design of plate made after September 2001) from a distance of 20 metres away.

The second test is to be able to read the 6/12 line on the letter chart at your Opticians. This can be with spectacle or contact lenses, although if you need either to reach this standard you must therefore where them to drive. Our Optometrist will inform you if you do/don’t achieve this standard.

The next requirement is looking at your visual field. To check how well you can see around you when you are looking straight ahead, we will place you on a machine and ask you to follow a red dot whilst counting how many green dots appear around it.

Please note that for driving we are looking at what vision you have with both eyes together and not that both of your eyes meet each standard noted above. This means that should you have an eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma in one eye you may still be ok to drive.

For further reading and to see the most up to date driving legal requirements please visit Gov.uk. Please keep checking back from time to time as requirements can change (even the number plate at the header of this piece will change post 31st January 2020).

After your sight test

At the end of your sight test, our Optometrist will inform you if there are any concerns with you meeting the legal requirements to drive.

It may be that you meet the standards but only if you wear your current spectacles or contact lenses. This is fantastic news as you can drive yourself home and continue about your routine.

If, however, you do not meet the driving standards with your current prescription and are told a new prescription will allow you to continue driving, you MUST not drive until you are in possession of your new spectacles/contact lenses. This includes NOT driving home from your appointment.

There may even be an occasion where we can improve your vision from where it currently is, but not enough to be able to meet the legal driving requirements. This would mean you immediately need to stop driving.

We have leaflets in Practice produced by the College of Optometrists, (“Driving and Vision”) which we will issue to you to take away and read more about the discussions we have had with you. This will also provide more information on when to advice the DVLA and how to.

What happens if you continue to drive when told you should not do so?

Apart from the obvious of putting yourself and others at risk, it is a criminal offence to continue to drive if you have been told you are medically unfit to do so, and carries a fine of up to £1,000.

This could lead to prosecution should you be involved in an accident and you may also find that your car insurance to be invalidated.

How to inform the DVLA

YOU must inform the DVLA if you can no longer meet the vision requirements for driving. You can do this by completing a V1 form and submitting it back to the DVLA (to the address on the form).

Section 4 of this form is where you declare that you can/can’t meet the legal standards for driving.

(V! – Online vision medical questionnaire)

This form can be downloaded from the following page V1

There are other stipulations such as if you have a disability which has got worse since you got your licence or if you have certain medical conditions, even if you can still meet the vision requirements. We have not touched on those in this article, however more information can be found at www.gov.uk/driving-medical-conditions and www.gov.uk/health-conditons-and-driving.


We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have regular eye examinations to ensure you meet the legal requirements to drive.

As noted in the key facts at the start of this article, there are now twice as many drivers in their 80’s than teenagers on UK roads. A change in vision does not have to mean you lose your ability to drive; we could actually make it easier for you. Not to mention safer for you and those around you.

This is also just as important for teenagers, especially if you have not had a sight test as a child. Your vision is normal to you and you may not even realise that you aren’t seeing as clear as possible as you have no other reference. If you are under 19 years old and still in full time education your sight test is free, so get booked in before you take your practical driving test to ensure you can meet the required standards.