Eyesight is an essential factor in road safety, but research estimates that there are approximately nine million drivers on Britain’s roads with vision that falls below the legal standards for driving.

Accidents involving a driver with poor vision are estimated to cause 3,000 casualties and cost £33 million in the UK per year.

Driving eyesight rules

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 does not include being short or long sighted or colour blind. You also do not 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 your 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.

Lorry and bus drivers

You must have a visual acuity at least 0.8 (6/7.5) measured on the Snellen scale in your best eye and at least 0.1 (6/60) on the Snellen scale in the other eye.

You can reach this standard using glasses with a corrective power not more than (+) 8 dioptres, or with contact lenses. There’s no specific limit for the corrective power of contact lenses.

You must have an uninterrupted horizontal visual field of at least 160 degrees with an extension of at least 70 degrees left and right and 30 degrees up and down. No defects should be present within a radius of the central 30 degrees.

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

You may still be able to renew your lorry or bus licence if you cannot meet these standards but held your licence before 1 January 1997.

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 cannot, you’ll fail your driving test and the test will not 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.


Although this guidance is for occupational health professionals who are consulted about the medical fitness of workplace transport drivers. You can adapt the following guidance to individual circumstances and consider those circumstances from a managerial perspective.

Medical standards

There is detailed advice on medical standards of fitness to drive in At a Glance published by the Drivers Medical Unit of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA). However, the DVLA does not have responsibility for licensing workplace transport drivers if they do not drive on public roads. Always consult At a Glance if you have any doubt about an individual’s fitness to operate workplace transport**. It lists separate medical standards for:

  • Group 1 (holders of ordinary driving licence); and
  • Group 2 (heavy goods vehicle (HSV) and public service vehicle (PSV) licence holders).

** “Workplace transport” means any vehicle or mobile equipment used by employers, employees, contractors, or visitors in any work setting. It includes any vehicle used in a work setting; that includes forklift trucks, mobile cranes, mobile plant, large goods vehicles and also vans and cars.

Application of medical standards

You should always judge a person’s fitness for operating a vehicle on a case-by-case basis. Your aim is to match the requirements of the driving task with the fitness and abilities of the driver.

For most work, a standard equivalent to Group 1 will be appropriate. In some cases, however, a more stringent standard may be required, for example when:

  • moving highly toxic or explosive materials
  • working in a particularly demanding environment
  • working at night; or
  • operating large, heavy vehicles

In these instances, some or all of the medical standards equivalent to Group 2 may be appropriate.

Assessing fitness individually should help ensure that people with disabilities are not disadvantaged. Some people with disabilities have developed compensatory skills. Reasonable adjustment to work equipment may enable a disabled person to operate workplace transport safely. However, you must always think about their competence in an emergency. The Equality Act 2010 is likely to apply.

Frequency of assessment

In line with DVLA requirements, HSE suggests screening all existing and potential workplace transport operators for fitness before employment and at five-yearly intervals from age 45. Group 2 licences are renewable five-yearly from age 45 and, where an individual is both a workplace transport operator and holds a Group 2 licence these assessments can be made at the same examination. A workplace transport operator who continues after age 65 should have annual assessments for fitness.

We recommend assessment after an absence of more than one month or after a shorter absence if it is likely that the illness has affected the worker’s fitness to operate workplace transport. This provides positive confirmation of fitness to operate workplace transport in these circumstances.

If a GP signs a worker off as fit to return to work, this may not be the same as fitness to operate workplace transport. HSE also recommend assessment if workplace transport operators, or their employers, suspect that they have developed a condition which may affect their continuing ability to operate workplace transport.

Employers and employees should agree requirements for medical screening and/or examination of employees in a written contract of employment.

Other things to consider

As transport professionals, we should all be aware of the requirement to notify DVLA of any notifiable medical conditions. That said, it has become a requirement that in the event of a commercial vehicle being involved in a road traffic accident, insurance companies now want to know whether the driver in question has any medical condition(s), and/or is he/she taking prescribed medication for any condition, and most importantly, whether said driver has notified DVLA if the condition requires it.

There are several companies who now, as a matter of course, keep a log of their driver medical conditions, medication, records of whether they have been informed by the drivers GP that they are fit to drive and whether or not the driver has notified DVLA.

To cover insurance requirements, if your insurers request this information, it is prudent to have a driver medical declaration form completed and signed by all drivers of company vehicles, and which should be updated at least annually. This form should be retained by HR as part of a drivers personnel file, being mindful of Data Protection Law.

Driver Licence Checking Bureau

Having an online driver licence checking bureau, to regularly check all company drivers’ licenses, has many benefits and will be a request of proof from your insurers if one of your drivers has a road traffic accident.

For those transport operators who have this service provided to them, is a ‘brownie point’ in the eyes of the TCs office.