Three forces in England are planning to test every motorist they stop in a bid to clamp down on drivers with defective eyesight, they are Thames Valley, Hampshire and West Midlands.

Drivers who fail to read a number plate from 20m (65ft) away when stopped by police will have their licences revoked immediately in a new crackdown. This initiative will help to improve understanding of the extent of poor driver vision.

Under current rules, the only mandatory examination of a driver's vision takes place during the practical test, when learners must read a number plate from 20 metres.

Officers can request an urgent revocation of a licence through the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if they believe the safety of other road users will be put at risk if a driver remains on the road.

Clearly not being able to see a hazard or react to a situation quickly enough can have catastrophic consequences.

What happens if your licence is revoked?

If your licence is revoked - which can occur for a number of medical reasons - you will have to apply for a new one, paying the fee as you would for a first licence.

The DVLA will give you a disqualification period, during which a driver cannot apply for a new licence.

You can then reapply eight weeks before the end of this period, and you may need to send evidence that you are fit to drive. The letter from the DVLA will tell you if this is the case.

Remember not having a valid driving licence will often mean that your insurance is invalid.


The DVLA rules state

You must wear glasses or contact lenses every time you drive if you need them to meet the ‘standards of vision for driving’.

You must tell DVLA if you’ve got any problem with your eyesight that affects both of your eyes, or the remaining eye if you only have one eye.

This doesn’t include being short or long sighted or colour blind. You also don’t need to say if you’ve had surgery to correct short sightedness and can meet the eyesight standards.

Check if you need to tell DVLA about your eyesight problem by searching the A to Z of medical conditions that could affect you’re driving.

You could be prosecuted if you drive without meeting the standards of vision for driving.

Standards of vision for driving

You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.

You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye.

You must also have an adequate field of vision - your optician can tell you about this and do a test.

You must tell DVLA if you’ve got any problem with your eyesight that affects either eye.

The practical driving test eyesight test

At the start of your practical driving test you have to correctly read a number plate on a parked vehicle.

If you can’t, you’ll fail your driving test and the test won’t continue. DVLA will be told and your licence will be revoked.

When you reapply for your driving licence, DVLA will ask you to have an eyesight test with DVSA. This will be at a driving test centre. If you’re successful, you’ll still have to pass the DVSA standard eyesight test at your next practical driving test.


Types of eye problems

When checking your own eyesight or that of others it is useful to be aware of potential problems.

Glasses Lifting or dropping the head, turning to one side or tilting the head could indicate double-vision, a reduced field of vision, 'nystagmus' (a 'wobble' in the eye), or, in the case of those wearing spectacles it could indicate that a new prescription is required.

The tendency to close one eye can also suggest double vision. If this is severe and un-treatable, the driver can drive with one eye covered (providing that the eye being used has the appropriate field of vision).

Monocular vision (one eye at a time) reduces depth of field, special care should be taken with night driving and when overtaking (potential judgment problems).

Defective colour vision: This is does not prevent a person from driving. However, you need to be aware of any potential problems associated with road signs, traffic lights, etc.

Tunnel vision: Drivers must have a minimum of 120 degrees vision spanning the central field of view.


Checking your own eyesight

Eyesight check No 1

Pace out the correct distance from a (standard) car number plate, to meet the legal minimum eyesight requirement (20 metres) and make sure that you can read the number easily without squinting or screwing up your eyes (a good stride is approximately 1 metre).

Eyesight check No 2

Find a number plate that is so far away that you cannot read it. Walk towards it until you can just read it.

Pace out the distance from the point at which you can just read it to the vehicle - is this well over 20 metres? If not, it's worth getting an eye check, especially if you have always had good vision or have not had an eye-check for a long time.