What really are the rules around driving with impaired vision?

impaired vision

If you suspect your eyesight isn’t as good as it might be, you shouldn’t get in a car. Not being able to see properly is at the very least an infringement of the Highway Code. A car isn’t a machine for testing your vision ‑ despite what government ministers and their aides might think. In the hands of someone who’s even slightly impaired it’s a deadly weapon. That’s why the law says anyone with impaired vision must inform the (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). Here are the rest of the rules:

What the Highway Code says about impaired vision

Rule 92 of the Highway Code says: “You MUST be able to read a vehicle number plate, in good daylight, from a distance of 20 metres (or 20.5 metres where the old-style number plate is used). If you need to wear glasses (or contact lenses) to do this, you MUST wear them at all times while driving. The police have the power to require a driver to undertake an eyesight test.”

impaired vision
This is what an eye test usually looks like

What the rules say

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

It adds: “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.”

If you don’t tell the DVLA about a medical condition that affects your ability to drive, it could fine you up to £1000. If you have an accident because you can’t see properly, the police could prosecute.

What is the law about this?

Section 96 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 says: “If a person drives a motor vehicle on a road while his eyesight is such (whether through a defect which cannot be or one which is not for the time being sufficiently corrected) that he cannot comply with any requirement as to eyesight prescribed under this Part of this Act for the purposes of tests of competence to drive, he is guilty of an offence.

“(2) A constable having reason to suspect that a person driving a motor vehicle may be guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above may require him to submit to a test for the purpose of ascertaining whether, using no other means of correction than he used at the time of driving, he can comply with the requirement concerned.

“(3) If that person refuses to submit to the test he is guilty of an offence.”