Driving – Your Eyes

All drivers, regardless of vehicle category, MUST be able to read a car number plate, 20 metres . If glasses or contact lenses are needed to do this, then they MUST be worn when driving.

Remember – If you have an accident, caused by poor eyesight, your vehicle insurance may be voided.


  • It is estimated that 2,900 casualties are caused by poor driver vision each year. Poor vision is only recorded as a contributory factor in less than 1% of reported crashes, although some studies estimate that approximately 1.8 million drivers have vision below the minimum legal standards.
  • The general recommendation is have an eyesight check every two years, although your optician may advice an annual check. Having an eyesight test will be usually identify the majority of common eyesight conditions, and may also give clues about other less common diseases. It will also ensure that you meet minimum eyesight standards for driving.
  • If you are finding it difficult to read road signs, especially those with writing on as quickly as you used to, it could indicate that your long distance has deteriorated and require corrective lenses.
  • Poor vision causes more significant driving impairment at night. This may make it more difficult to spot pedestrians, especially if wearing dark clothing. You may also be affected by glare from oncoming vehicle headlights. Reducing night time driving can help in this instance; you may also wish to consider voluntary training.
  • Tinted lenses reduce the amount of light available to the eye, as such they are not recommended for driving at night or in conditions of poor visibility. The Highway Code advises against their use.
  • If you drive with eyesight below the minimum legal standard you could face a fine of up to £1,000, 3 penalty points or discretionary disqualification. If you cause death by dangerous driving you could face up to 14 years in prision.


Peripheral vision- The science of hazard perception

The way the brain functions when anticipating the threat from developing hazards may be responsible for the difference in risk between an experienced driver and a novice driver.

Imagine you’re driving and you suddenly notice a pedestrian stepping out in front of you. Even with just a hint of movement in your peripheral vision, your full attention is guided towards the hazard. Your brain doesn’t waste time telling its ‘thinking part’ that the pedestrian is about to step into the path of your car and that you should brake.

Your visual cortex feeds the information to the brainstem. This information is then sent on to the area of the brain. This is an automatic response based on past experience. It’s thought that our brain leaves a ‘marker’ whenever it encounters a threat, allowing it to respond more quickly when the same kind of scenario occurs again.

Why is the important? Well, there’s evidence to suggest that this ‘automated response’ allows experienced drivers to react earlier to hazards. The process only seems to develop with repeated exposure to different hazards. The process only seems to develop with repeated exposure to different hazards and road situations. This could explain why experienced drivers are better able to avoid risky situations than inexperienced drivers.


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