The importance of good eye health

Blog post posted on 20/09/22 |

What are the implications of poor eyesight and driving or riding? According to official UK government statistics, in 2020, uncorrected or defective vision was a contributory factor in 10 fatal crashes, 56 serious injury crashes and 99 slight injury crashes.

This week marks National Eye Health Week, so IAM RoadSmart’s Richard Gladman, Head of Driving and Riding Standards, has spoken about the importance of good eye health and the need for regular eye tests to keep yourself and other road users safe.

What is the legal eyesight standard for driving and riding?

Drivers and riders must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres. It’s a simple test so give it a try – if you have any problems then it’s worth using a tape measure. Visiting your optician regularly will help you keep a check on your eyesight and general eye health, so make sure you don’t miss those all-important appointments.  

What are the dangers of driving and riding with poor eyesight?

Taking care of your vision is vital, and good vision is essential for safe driving and motorcycling. The law only sets a minimum eyesight standard, and drivers and riders can be fined up to £1,000 if you do not tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving, and this could result in being prosecuted if you’re involved in a crash as a result.

Poor eyesight means you may miss seeing and reacting to hazards, such as road debris, other vehicles and sudden changes in traffic movement, as well as being unable to clearly see road signs. Even drivers with strong eyesight can find it challenging to drive in poor weather conditions or in the dark, so if you’ve got weak eyesight, you’ll be particularly vulnerable to risks on the roads. 

What should I do if I feel my vision is getting worse?

The NHS recommends that you should have your eyes tested every 2 years (more often if advised to do so), and since your eyes rarely hurt when something is wrong with them, having regular eye tests is important to help detect potentially harmful conditions. According to ROSPA, conditions such as cataracts cause more significant impairments when driving and riding than most other forms of poor vision, especially at night.

Eyesight problems become more prevalent as we grow older, and older people’s driving is more likely to be impaired by eyesight problems. Drivers aged over 70 must declare when renewing their licence that their eyesight meets minimum legal standards. Whilst drivers and riders don’t have to provide evidence of this, they could be held liable if they’re in a collision and it’s believed that poor eye health was a contributing factor.

If you feel like it’s time to have your driving skills reviewed, you can find out more about IAM RoadSmart’s Mature Driver Review here.

Do you need to declare it to the DVLA?

Drivers and riders must tell the DVLA if they’ve got any problems with their eyesight that affects both of their eyes, or the remaining eye if they only have one eye - this does not include being short or long sighted or colour blind. You can report a condition to DVLA here.

Richard Gladman, Head of Driving and Riding Standards at IAM RoadSmart, said:

“It is easy to allow your eyes to deteriorate gradually and develop coping strategies to convince yourself all is well. The problems will usually start as the light fades day to night, and you struggle to pick up movement in the shadows. If this is the case, try the simple 20-meter eye test in those conditions, and it’s worth visiting your opticians for advice. If you have been recommended to use glasses or contact lenses when driving, don’t take a chance without them - you wouldn’t chance it with a missing brake pad, and this is equally important.”

If you’re wondering what eye conditions need reporting, please visit DVLA here.