The current eye test for drivers is ‘out of date’ and ‘not fit for purpose’, according to a road safety group.
Drivers must be able to read – with glasses or contact lenses if necessary – a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.
An eye test is part of the practical driving test, with the driver asked to read a number plate on a parked vehicle.
If the driver fails the eye test, the driving test stops, the DVLA is informed and the licence is revoked. Re-applicants will be required to have an eye at a DVSA driving test centre, along with the standard eye test as part of the practical driving test.
Drivers must also have a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale, along with an adequate field of vision.
An eye test every 10 years
GEM Motoring Assist says this isn’t enough and is calling for a detailed eye test to form part of the driver photocard licence renewal process, every 10 years.
Road safety officer, Neil Worth, said: “If you can’t see properly, you shouldn’t be driving. Poor eyesight is linked to more than 3,000 fatal and serious injury collisions every year. We are worried that there are just too many people driving whose eyesight has deteriorated to an unacceptable level.
“We believe it is entirely practical and sensible to require a test of visual acuity and field of view every 10 years, something that would fit in with licence renewal.
“Tests of this kind would not only make our roads safer, saving lives, disability and many millions of pounds through the reduction in the number of crashes, but they would also play a vital role valuable tool in the early diagnosis of many other costly medical conditions, irrespective of driving.”
The 20 metres test
Rule 92 of the Highway Code states the following:
Vision. You MUST be able to read a vehicle number plate, in good daylight, from a distance of 20 metres (or 20.5 metres where the old style number plate is used). If you need to wear glasses (or contact lenses) to do this, you MUST wear them at all times while driving. The police have the power to require a driver to undertake an eyesight test.
In 2018, the DVLA launched a campaign to remind drivers that they can check their vision by taking the 20 metres test. Five car lengths or eight parking bays is an easy way to measure the distance.
Dr Wyn Parry, DVLA’s senior doctor, said: “The number plate test is a simple and effective way for people to check their eyesight meets the required standards for driving.
“Having good eyesight is essential for safe driving, so it’s really important for drivers to have regular eye tests. Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time so anyone concerned about their eyesight should visit their optician – don’t wait for your next check-up.”
As part of its Older Drivers Campaign, RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), advises motorists to keep a spare set of glasses in the glovebox.