- Richard Bush
I am partially sight-impaired and want to drive a car, but I can't find out whether I will be allowed to or not.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) set the requirements for vision standards on UK roads. If you have impaired vision then it is the DVLA's duty to assess you and deem you fit or unfit for the road.
Although it is commonly believed that sight impairments will automatically disqualify someone from driving, the majority of impairments are subject to testing. For example, motorists with cataracts are assessed by the DVLA with set criteria.
The DVLA separates vehicles into two licence groups: Group 1, which includes cars and motorbikes; Group 2, which includes large goods vehicles (LGVs) - like Lorries. Each group has different vision standards.
Without knowing the specifics of your sight it's difficult to say how you might be affected. However, we've provided an overview below on how UK legislation relates to driving and partially-sighted people. The requirements below apply to just Group 1 licence requirements.
Driving with sight impairment - FAQ
What do I do if I want to become a driver?
If you have impaired vision then you must inform the DVLA so that they can properly assess you before you think about driving. If you pass their vision standard tests then you can take a regular driving test. You must pass these tests if you want to drive.
What are the tests?
Depending on what your vision impairment is may depend on what tests you are required to participate in.
An eyesight test with a Snellen chart (the chart with letters getting gradually smaller) will be part of the tests. To pass, you must be able to read a line of letters from six metres that someone with normal vision can read at 12 metres away. This sight requirement is the same for everyone taking the test.
Another test includes a 'visual field analyser', which is a computerised machine that requires you to respond to small flashing lights. This test helps asses your horizontal vision field, which is required to be 120 degrees, with at least 50 degrees field vision left and right.
Where do you get tested?
You can visit your optician to take the vision standard tests and they can supply you with the relevant documentation that the DVLA requires.
Can I drive if I am blind in one eye?
You are only classed as having monocular vision (blind in one eye) if you have no light perception whatsoever in the impaired eye. If you are blind in one eye then you can drive but are required to pass the DVLA's vision standard tests.
What if I am colour blind?
If you are colour blind you do not need to inform the DVLA. You can take a driving test as normal.
What if I need glasses / contacts?
If you wear glasses or contacts you must wear them while taking the vision standards test and whilst you are taking your driving tests. You must also wear them at all times when you are driving.
What about when it comes to your driving test?
Even if you have passed the DVLA vision standards you will still be asked to read a licence plate of a car from around 20 metres away, depending on the size of the numbers and letters. The standard size of licence plate lettering is three inches high.
If you fail this test you will be given two more attempts. If you fail these then you fail your driving test.
What do I do if I fail?
If you fail, you have to repeat the above process and take the DVLA vision standards test again.
What happens if I don't tell the DVLA and drive with a vision impairment?
If you are caught driving with impaired vision that has not been properly assessed you could get three points on your licence, be fined up to £1,000 or even have your licence revoked. Also, if you had an accident, your insurance will be invalided if your eyesight is proved to be impaired.
Will my impairments mean my insurance is more expensive?
If you are considered medically fit to drive then your insurance premiums will not be affected.
We asked Sarah Bailey from the Association of British Insurers and she said: "Insurers cannot make decisions based on medical conditions, and therefore sight impairment does not affect premiums."
Do you get a special licence?
It will be noted that you have vision impairment on your driving licence for future reference. If you have a visual impairment then you can apply for a blue badge as part of the disability scheme. This blue badge allows for easier parking as you can park on double yellow lines and in other areas that a normal licence would not allow.
What about if i pass my test but my sight subsequently deteriorates further?
If your sight continues to deteriorate then you should inform your GP and then the DVLA; you may need to take another visual standard test.
Is there any special equipment to help me?
There are many different types of equipment that can be added to your vehicle to help you if you are visually impaired. Depending on what your visual impairment is will depend on what equipment is available. For example, if you have poor peripheral vision then you can have extra mirrors installed onto your car to help you see.
DVLA vision standards
The League for the Blind and Disabled
London Borough of Bromley council support for the blind or partially sighted
Advice for the visually impaired
Applying for a Blue Badge online
Guide to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995