Skip to main content

Keep an eye on your vision for driving

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Drivers medical, Features

New Vision Panel Secretary Dr Cathy Armstrong shares her professional advice on getting your eyesight checked for driving, and the extra challenges of driving in winter.

Dr Cathy Armstrong, DVLA Vision Panel Secretary

I was recently appointed joint DVLA Vision Panel Secretary alongside Dr Gareth Rees, and I’ve worked at DVLA for 2 and a half years. As it’s Road Safety Week, I thought it would be a good time to blog about eyesight and driving.

As drivers we often forget just how complex driving is, and being able to meet the vision standards for this complex activity is extremely important for road safety. It's particularly important that if someone has been prescribed glasses or contact lenses for driving, they must wear them every time they drive to stay legal on the road.

Many of us wear glasses; maybe just for reading, maybe for all aspects of daily life - or a bit of both. However many people are prescribed glasses to make sure their eyesight meets the vision standards required by law for driving. Unfortunately, forgetfulness, vanity and difficulty tolerating glasses can result in unloved spectacles cluttering up car gloveboxes and handbags. But if they’re not worn, drivers are risking their own and other road users’ safety.

All drivers must be able to meet these eyesight standards as a legal requirement. They test both visual field and acuity - that is, the area your sight covers and how clearly you can see. A defect in your visual field may mean you struggle to see approaching hazards without having to look away from the road ahead. A reduction in your visual acuity could give you difficulty in reading road signs and signals.

It's also important to remember that those who drive for a living and have a group 2 (vocational) licence must meet higher standards for vision. This is because of the size and type of vehicles they drive, and the longer time spent behind the wheel.

Winter sky with low setting sun

Driving during the winter months can be particularly challenging, since weather conditions can make it difficult to see clearly. There are the darker mornings, glare from the low setting winter sun, reduced visibility in rain and fog, as well as wet and icy weather and shorter daylight hours… All of these factors can make driving conditions more hazardous at this time of year, particularly if you have any problems with your eyesight.

Eyesight deteriorates over time and this can happen at any age. Some drivers may be noticing some of the tell-tale signs that their eyesight is not as good as it used to be. You might be finding it harder to judge distances, struggling to read a newspaper, or maybe it’s getting more difficult for you to drive at night. That’s why we recommend that all drivers have their vision tested at least every 2 years. If you notice any change in your eyesight, go and see your optician straightaway - don’t wait until your next check-up or when your driving licence is due for renewal.

If you don’t meet the eyesight standards, stop driving immediately and tell DVLA. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

link to check the eyesight rules for driving

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Mr Aidan Linton-Smith posted on

    This was a timely reminder to look after my eyesight and how important it is to be safe to drive.

  2. Comment by Ben Graham posted on

    Hi Dr Armstrong and Dr Rees,

    Many thanks for your note, a very timely reminder about eyesight.

    Regrettably though, I suspect the audience you will reach with this blog are not those who it needs to reach. Many drivers will have never checked their eyesight, and other than reading a number plate from 20 metres before taking a car or bike test won't have been legally obliged to have any sort of test - even at the age of 70, the licence renewal relies on self-certification.

    I recall as a 13 year old being told I will need to wear glasses - up to the point of putting glasses on I had no perception my eyesight was poor as the deterioration was so gradual.

    Is there an appetite to insist on a medical certification of some sort regarding eyesight to accompany an initial licence application and 10 year renewal - and perhaps a more comprehensive medical when renewing from 70 onwards in line with the vocational licence application requirements?

    In my mind such a proposal doesn't seem to be a large expense in comparison to the danger driving with poor eyesight can cause. It might also be a sight or life saver as I understand an early detection of a health issue associated with eye checks can result in earlier intervention.

    Again, thank you for your article.

    Kind regards,

    Ben Graham
    Driver Development Manager / Fleet Driver Trainer
    John Lewis Partnership

    • Replies to Ben Graham>

      Comment by Dr Cathy Armstrong posted on

      Thanks very much Ben for your feedback and comments.

      Although there is no statutory requirement to have regular eye tests, drivers do have a duty to ensure they can meet the vision standards for driving, and should inform DVLA if they can’t and stop driving. If we receive concerns about someone’s vision, we frequently commission eye tests or even a number plate test to ensure someone is still able to read a number plate from 20 metres. You also make a very valid point about regular eye tests allowing earlier detection of a possibly significant health issue.

  3. Comment by Wendy Doodson posted on

    I think that something needs to be done about the cars with really bright lights which can be blinding! Why is this allowed, I have spoken to many who ask the same thing?

  4. Comment by Terry Storey posted on

    Thanks for timely reminder as I need to do this asap and have been meaning to book an appointment so this has pushed me into doing it.
    I take driving very seriously and always have to the point I won't even have a radio on in the car.
    To enhance road safety I do think the DVLA should introduce a driver update scheme where drivers can go for an assesment if they want one. I say this as we all get bad habits even if we think we are the greatest driver of all time. I personally think we are always learning and this should continue every day but we all make mistakes but we need to learn from them.
    I do think young drivers need this support especially in the first three or four years and I feel the test is too easy and the emphasis should be placed on driving schools to make this a serious issues and not the jokey game that some schools appears to think it is. They are often seen having deep converstaions while on the move and clearly joking and laughing which is not the message they should engender as lives are stake.

    I hope this helpful and keep up the good work.
    Kind regards

    • Replies to Terry Storey>

      Comment by Dr Cathy Armstrong posted on

      Many thanks for your helpful comments Terry.

      All drivers are of course free to arrange a driving assessment or further tuition if they feel it’s needed.