Advice for drivers

Advice for drivers

You should always wear your glasses or contact lenses when driving if you need them. Opticians also recommend that:

  • You always carry a spare pair of glasses or lenses with you, especially on long journeys or when driving abroad
  • Some glasses styles are better for driving than others. For example, thin rims and high sides improve all-round vision
  • Plastic or polycarbonate lenses are less likely than glass to shatter in an accident
  • If you wear bifocals or varifocals, you should ask your optician to recommend the most suitable lens design for driving
  • Polarising lenses reduce glare, making them ideal for driving during bright daylight hours
  • You should keep your windscreen clean and your windscreen wipers in good order

Eyesight, driving and the law

The law in the UK states that your eyesight is of a level where you can safely drive if you can read a licence plate at 20.5m in clear conditions. If you can’t meet this standard, your insurance will be invalid. However, there are two obvious problems with this criteria: it requires drivers to self-test (which they rarely do) and secondly, it doesn’t test for visual fields, which is a critical aspect of safe driving*.

Additionally, certain eyesight conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma** and double vision must be reported to the DVLA and drivers must be able to see clearly out of the corners of their eyes and when driving in the dark.

Drivers who don’t take responsibility for their vision by having regular eye tests risk serious repercussions if involved in an accident. This can include points on your licence, a fine or even time in prison.

[*] Johnson CA, Keltner JL. Incidence of visual field loss in 20,000 eyes and its relationship to driving performance. Arch Opthalmol, 101, 371-5 (1983)

[**] Car or motorcycle licence - you don’t need to tell the DVLA provided you have no medical condition in the other eye and you’re still able to meet the visual standards for driving. If you hold a bus, coach or lorry licence you must tell the DVLA if glaucoma exists in either eye.