Q. My eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be, but I am reluctant to wear glasses. I believe I can still drive perfectly well, but I understand there may be legal requirements about how good a driver’s eyesight has to be. I recall having to read a number plate from some distance when I took my driving test many years ago, but I can’t remember what the distance was. Was it 100 yards? Please could you advise me?
A. It is an offence for a person to drive a motor vehicle on a road while his eyesight is such that he cannot comply with the rules as to eyesight. The rules are that the driver, whether or not wearing glasses, can read a car’s number plate at a distance of 20.5 metres (20 metres for the new style, smaller plates) in good daylight. Fortunately, the distance is not, as you remember it, 100 yards. There might not be many of us on the roads if this were the case!
If you are unable to pass the eyesight test, you are deemed to be disabled and prevented from holding a driving licence. The requirement as to reading a number plate from 20.5 metres can be satisfied “whether or not wearing glasses”, so even if your eyesight is poor, you still meet the requirement if you do so by wearing spectacles or contact lenses.
It is also an offence to refuse to submit to an eyesight test when required to do so by a constable who suspects that the driver may be committing an offence under these rules. If you are caught driving without glasses or contact lenses and the police constable suspects that you were driving with uncorrected defective eyesight, the test he can require you to take is to be taken without the aid of glasses or contact lenses. If, however, you were driving at night or in conditions of poor visibility when the police suspected you of the offence, the test has to be carried out in good daylight.
If in proceedings before a court, the court comes to know that a driver’s eyesight has not been corrected or is incapable of being corrected, the court is under a duty to notify the DVLA with a view to the driver’s licence being revoked. Additionally, the court may consider disqualifying the driver until he passes a test. When applying for a driving licence you are obliged to say if your eyesight is not up to the required standard and cannot be corrected. DVLA can require a licence-holder or an applicant for a licence to submit to an eyesight examination.
The offences of driving with uncorrected sight, or refusing to submit to an eyesight test, are punishable with a fine and the obligatory endorsement of three penalty points.
Designed by solicitors, tested by barristers and available around the clock, Road Traffic Representation is an online legal system that allows people accused of a motoring offence to get free advice on how the law will be applied in their case, and referral to a telephone helpline and representation by a barrister in court if required. Practising solicitor Martin Langan spent two years designing the system and creating the data repository which allows the software to analyse road traffic offences with the same authority as a solicitor.