Eyesight and Driving

Eyesight and Driving


  • Good vision is essential for safe driving and motorcycling. Therefore, the law sets minimum eyesight standards that drivers and motorcyclists must meet. The standards for lorry and bus drivers are more stringent than for car drivers and motorcyclists.

  • There are no official estimates of the number of drivers and motorcyclists on the road with eyesight that fails to meet the minimum legal standards. However, some studies suggest 2% to 3% of drivers have vision below the minimum legal standards.

  • In 2011, 5,285 drivers and motorcyclists had their licences revoked because they could not pass a standard eye test, an increase of 8% since 2010.

  • In 2016, “uncorrected, defective eyesight” was reported as a contributory factor in 7 reported fatal road accidents, 57 reported serious road accidents, and 193 reported road accidents in total - less than 2% of reported road accidents. (RRCGB, DfT, 2017)

  • These accidents resulted in 7 people being killed, 63 being seriously injured and 182 road casualties in total. (RRCGB, DfT, 2017)

  • There is only weak evidence of a link between poor vision and increased accident risk. However, research establishes how vision defects impair driving, and potentially increase crash risk.

  • There is a wide variation of types of poor vision (for example, cataracts, short or long sightedness, visual field defects) each of which has a different effect on safe driving ability, depending on the circumstances (for example, night-time driving) and the severity of the vision defect.

  • Eyesight problems become more prevalent as we grow older, and the driving of older people is more likely to be impaired by eyesight problems.

  • Field of View Defects have been associated with impaired driving, although the impairment effects varies between individuals and can be difficult to predict without an on-road driving assessment. Some drivers can compensate for their vision problems by, for example, making more head movements to increase their visual scanning.

  • Cataracts cause more significant driving impairment than most other forms of poor vision, especially at night. However, after cataract surgery, driving ability can return to the standard of drivers without vision problems.

  • Some drivers wearing prescription spectacles or contact lenses can experience difficulties with tasks requiring changes of focus (such as looking far ahead and then at the dashboard displays).

  • Drivers with monocular vision can drive safely, although drivers with bus, coach or lorry licences must inform DVLA about the condition.

  • Poor vision causes greater impairment at night. Particular difficulties include the ability to see pedestrians, road signs, hazards in the road and glare from oncoming vehicle headlights.

  • These difficulties prompt some drivers to avoid driving in the dark (self-regulation) or to give up driving.

  • There is little evidence of the effects of colour vision deficiency on driving. However, one study found some types of colour vision deficiency result in slower response times to traffic lights.

  • Many research studies have found that some drivers who pass the driving eyesight test still exhibit impaired driving due to poor eyesight.

  • Visual acuity is a poor screening test, and many studies recommend additional tests, such as contrast sensitivity and visual field tests.

  • The Optical Confederation believes the Number Plate Test should be replaced with a proper assessment of visual acuity performed under controlled conditions.

  • There is also evidence of uncertainty among eye health professionals in deciding which patients should be advised not to drive.


  • Date Added: 14 Mar 2013, 11:55 AM
  • Last Update: 11 Dec 2017, 04:55 PM