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It is important that you can see clearly to be able to drive safely. Conditions that may affect your visual field and driving include strokes and brain tumours, as well as eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma (if you have them in both eyes).

Make sure you have regular eye examinations and if your optometrist tells you that you must not drive, you must stop all driving immediately. Driving when you are medically unfit to do so is a criminal offence, and you could face a fine of up to £1000. You may be prosecuted if you are involved in an accident.

DVLA and DVA driving eyesight rules

If you drive a car you must:

  • be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate in the format introduced after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres;
  • have a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye. Your optometrist will be able to tell you if you meet this standard; and
  • have an adequate field of vision. If your optometrist detects a reduced visual field they will tell you to inform the DVLA. The DVLA will then arrange for you to have this assessed, using both of your eyes together, to make sure you are legal to drive.

If you drive a bus or a lorry you must:

  • have a visual acuity at least 0.8 (6/7.5) measured on the Snellen scale in your best eye and at least 0.1 (6/60) on the Snellen scale in the other eye. You must be able to reach this standard using glasses with a corrective power not more than (+) 8 dioptres, or with contact lenses. There’s no limit for the corrective power of contact lenses; and
  • have a horizontal visual field of at least 160 degrees, extending to at least 70 degrees left and right and 30 degrees up and down. No defects should be present within a radius of the central 30 degrees.

You must tell the DVLA (DVA in Northern Ireland) if:

  • you can no longer meet the vision requirements for driving;
  • a condition or disability has got worse since you got your licence; or
  • you have certain medical conditions, even if you can still meet the vision requirements for driving.

Full details are available on gov.uk’s Driving eyesight rules?and NI Direct’s?Driving and eyesight requirements.

Driving glasses

If your optometrist has told you to wear glasses for driving, make sure you wear them, even for short trips – and keep a spare pair in the car. Choose glasses with thinner sides for driving as they won’t block your side vision as much as thicker ones. If you wear contact lenses, keep a pair of glasses in the car in case you need to take your lenses out. Even if you don’t need to wear glasses all the time, you will probably find they are particularly helpful when the lighting is poor, and for driving at night.

The headlights of oncoming traffic can be dazzling when you are driving at night or in poor weather conditions. You may see ‘night driving glasses’ with amber-coloured plastic lenses available on the internet and in some shops. Optometrists do not recommend that you wear them as they restrict the amount of light entering your eyes and so may cause more problems than they solve.

If glare is an ongoing problem for you, make sure your windscreen and headlights are thoroughly cleaned and free from grime and dirt. If you wear glasses, you may find that having them coated with an anti-reflective coating may help – and don’t forget to keep them clean too. If you find that problems with glare at night persist, make an appointment with your optometrist.

Sunshine can be dazzling too, particularly when the sun is low in the sky. If you wear glasses, you may find it helpful to have a pair of prescription sunglasses in the car, or to wear clip-on sunglasses over your prescription glasses.


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