Can I see to drive safely?

Our Optometrists  answer your questions and gives advice on common eye problems.

Q: I can still read a car number plate at the required distance. Will I still meet the driving standard?
A: There can be problems with your vision that could have implications for driving. Being able to pass the number plate test is just one aspect of seeing to drive safely. There is also a requirement that you have an adequate field of vision i.e. have good peripheral or side vision. Certain conditions such as a stroke that has caused a field of vision loss( called a hemianopia). This is where half of the field of vision is lost on the same side in both eyes. A hemianopia is a fairly common complication of a stroke, and occurs when the area of the brain that processes visual information is damaged.  Other conditions such as Glaucoma or  Diabetic retinopathy can also affect the side vision, The field of vision  is usually measured by a computerised field analyser.

Vision Standards:
So, what are the vision standards for driving? Firstly, you must be able to read a car number plate (with the aid of glasses or contact lenses, if usually worn) from 20 metres (66 feet). Broadly speaking, this is equivalent to a visual acuity of 6/12 as measured by a Snellen eye test chart at your optometrist’s practice. The Driver & Vehicle Licencing  Agency (DVLA) also requires that you have a field of vision of at least 120 degrees on the horizontal, with no blank areas in the most sensitive central area.
Group 2 drivers for Lorries and buses will need a higher level of vision.

Health & Eye Conditions:
As well as diabetes, other health problems, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure can affect your sight. There are also a variety of eye conditions that can impact on your driving vision. Cataracts and macular degeneration may significantly reduce your visual acuity. Cataracts can also give you increased sensitivity to glare, making it particularly difficult to drive at night or in bright sunshine.

An anti–reflective coating on spectacle lenses can help to reduce these.

Advanced glaucoma can restrict your field of vision, leading to tunnel vision in extreme cases.

Advice:
If you have an eye or health condition which affects your sight you have a responsibility to notify the Driver & Vehicle Agency. It’s also worth pointing out that a failure to meet minimum vision standards for driving may affect your insurance cover if you ever have an accident. Remember, driving is one of the most demanding tests of your vision. Therefore, it makes sense for all drivers to have regular eye examinations to ensure their driving vision is both safe and legally compliant. If you have any doubt about whether your vision meets the driving requirements, one of our optometrists can advise you.

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