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Car driver eyesight

Is it time for an eye test?

Eyesight problems are more common among older age groups and are likely to cause greater impairment at night when they can make it more difficult to see pedestrians and road signs or cope with the glare from oncoming vehicle headlights.

Your eyesight was checked at the start of your practical driving test – you'll have been asked to read a number plate from distance (20 metres for a number plate made after 1 September 2001) – but have you had it checked since?

Not only do regular eyesight checks help make sure you stay legal on the road they can also pick up at an early stage any potential eyesight problems that can be dealt with if diagnosed soon enough.

And if you needed to wear glasses or contact lenses to read the number plate when you took your test, or have been prescribed glasses since, do you make sure that you wear them every time you drive?

Legal requirements

Section 96 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 creates the offence of driving with uncorrected defective eyesight.

  • If a person drives a motor vehicle on a road while his eyesight is such (whether through a defect which cannot be or one which is not for the time being sufficiently corrected) that he cannot comply with any requirement as to eyesight prescribed under this Part of this Act for the purposes of tests of competence to drive, he is guilty of an offence.
  • A constable having reason to suspect that a person driving a motor vehicle may be guilty of an offence under subsection 1 may require him to submit to a test for the purpose of ascertaining whether, using no other means of correction than he used at the time of driving, he can comply with the requirement concerned.
  • If that person refuses to submit to the test he is guilty of an offence.

You can be fined up to a maximum of £1,000, along with three points on your licence and possible disqualification.

You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don't tell DVLA about any medical condition that affects your driving. If you're involved in an accident, you may be prosecuted.

Contributory factors

Whenever the police investigate a motor vehicle accident the report includes information on contributory factors as determined by the investigating officer or advised by witnesses or the driver(s) involved in the incident.

The most frequently recorded contributory factors (2011 data) are:*

  • Failed to look properly   42% of all accidents
  • Failed to judge other person's path or speed 21%
  • Careless, reckless or in a hurry  16%
  • Poor turn or manoeuvre   14%
  • Loss of control    14%
  • Pedestrian failed to look properly  10%
  • Slippery road due to weather  8%
  • Travelling too fast for the conditions  7%
  • Following too close    7%
  • Sudden braking    7%
  • Exceeding speed limit   5%
  • Impaired by alcohol   5%

In this context, 'Uncorrected, defective eyesight' was reported as a contributory factor in only 0.2% of accidents.


Fast track system

In February 2013 DVLA introduced a new fast-track reporting system for the police to request urgent revocation of a drivers licence when they believe he/she presents a severe risk to the public.

On working days between 8am and 9pm DVLA will review the case immediately and notify the police by email if the licence has been revoked.

A banned driver who continues to drive, commits a criminal offence which may lead to their arrest and vehicle seizure.

Before the introduction of this new reporting system police officers had no powers to immediately suspend a licence for a driver who fails an eyesight test but ignores advice not to drive.

(Page updated 15 August 2013)

* A single accident can have multiple contributory factors.