How good does a driver's vision need to be to pass the eyesight test?

Driving Test Report Section 1a Eyesight Test

On this page about the eyesight test, which is section 1a on the driving test report form, you will discover how and when your vision is tested in the driving test. You can be sure that this is what the examiner wants to see as it is based on information from a number of official sources:

You'll also discover not just how to do it but also what happens when you have to do this on your driving test

We'll start by finding out what is expected of you in general terms.

Current and historical guidance from the driving test report explanation sheet

The examiner will first ask you to read a vehicle registration number. If you require glasses or contact lenses, you must wear them whenever you drive. If you do not meet the eyesight standard then the test will not go ahead. If you need glasses or contact lenses to make sure that you can read the number plate then you must wear them when you drive.

What happens during the test

Once you leave the test centre waiting room and before you approach your car the examiner will ask you which car is yours and then ask you to read a registration plate that is not on your vehicle.

If you have dyslexia it might be easier if you read a back on yellow, rear number plate. Simply tell the examiner that you'd prefer this.

New style british yellow background rear vehicle registration plate with 79mm high characters

If you can clearly see the registration plate but are unable to identify the letters or numbers the examiner will ask you to write down what you see. This may be due to English not being your first language, dyslexia, illiteracy, or inability to communicate due to speech difficulties. You do not have to give a reason, just ask if you can write down what you see rather than saying it.

If you have trouble the examiner may ask you to read a different plate. Don't worry about mixing the letter O with the number 0.

If you fail to read a registration plate after four attempts the driving part of your test will not go ahead and you will be deemed to have failed the test.

How the examiner assesses and marks your eyesight

Expected outcome / competence

You need to show the ability to:

Read, in good daylight, (with the aid of glasses or contact lenses if worn) a new style registration mark containing letters and figures 79mm high fixed to a motor vehicle at a distance of 20 metres. New style registrations have the layout of two letters followed by three numbers followed by two letters e.g. AB123CD
New style british vehicle registration plate with 79mm high characters
Or read an old style registration mark containing letters and figures 79.4mm high fixed to a motor vehicle at a distance of 20.5 metres. Old style registrations have the layout of one letter followed by three numbers followed by three letters e.g. A123BCD
Old style british vehicle registration plate with 79.5mm high characters

Driving fault

Not applicable

Serious fault

Unable to meet the requirements of the eyesight test. Read registration incorrectly for the fourth time with distance checked using the official measuring tape.

Dangerous fault

Not applicable

Highway Code rules about eyesight

92
Vision. 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.

93
Slow down, and if necessary stop, if you are dazzled by bright sunlight.

94
At night or in poor visibility, do not use tinted glasses, lenses or visors if they restrict your vision.

The National Driving Standard for eyesight

Performance standards

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.
  • be able to 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.
  • have an adequate field of vision - your optician can tell you about this and do a test.
    • Sight in one eye only
      • If you can see with only one eye, you may still be able to meet the standards for driving set out below.It may take up to three months or more for you to adapt to driving with one eye, so be prepared for this. Your ability to judge distances may be affected and you may not be so aware of objects to each side of you. Following the loss of sight in one eye you should not drive until you have been advised by your doctor or optician that you have fully adapted to monocularity. You should not resume driving unless you are able to meet the visual acuity and visual field standards set out below.
    • One eye is affected by a medical condition
      • If you have a medical condition that currently affects only one eye, you may still be able to meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving set out below. If your condition affects both eyes you must let us know.
    • After having cataracts removed
      • If you have surgery to remove cataracts, your eyesight after the surgery must meet the standard of vision, set out below, to allow you to continue driving. If your condition affects both eyes you must let us know.
    • Standards of visual acuity
      • The legal eyesight standard means that you must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres.You must not have been told by a doctor or optician that your eyesight is currently worse than 6/12 (decimal 0.5) on the Snellen scale. If you are in any doubt, you should discuss with your optician or doctor. If required, you may wear glasses or corrective lenses to meet both of these standards.
      • If you do not meet this standard you cannot drive on a public road. If you do drive on a public road, you are guilty of an offence. You should regularly check yourself, whether you meet this standard. Also, if the police suspect that you do not have the relevant standard of vision, they can make you take the ‘number plate test’. If you cannot read the number plate, your licence may be revoked and you could be prosecuted.
    • Standards for field of vision
      • Your field of vision is the entire area that you can see when your eyes are fixed in one position. You must have an adequate field of vision to drive safely. To meet the standard for your field of vision, you must be able to see within a specific area without there being significant problems in the field of vision. If you have total loss of sight in one eye, you must not have any problem with the field of vision in your other eye. If you have any doubt about whether you can meet the relevant standard, get advice from your GP, optician or eye specialist.In the interest of road safety, you must be sure that you can safely control a motor vehicle at all times. If your eyesight gets worse and you cannot read a number plate at the relevant distance, or you lose any of your field of vision, you must tell us. You must give us your name and address or your driver number whenever you contact us.
    • Bioptic (telescope) devices are not acceptable for use while driving in Great Britain.

You must tell DVSA 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 doesn’t include being short or long sighted or colour blind. You also don’t need to say if you’ve had surgery to correct short sightedness andcan meet the eyesight standards.

If your GP, optician or eye specialist tells you to report your eyesight difficulty to the DVSA, you need to fill in the appropriate medical questionnaire.

Questionnaires are available to download at www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • that eyesight gets worse over time, and that not realising or doing anything about it can affect your ability to drive safely and legally
  • the need to have an eyesight test at least every 2 years
  • that you must wear glasses or contact lenses all the time when driving if you need them to meet the driving eyesight rules

Examiner's guidance from the DVSA about the eyesight test

Care should be taken to select a clean number plate on a vehicle, which can be clearly viewed. The candidate should first be asked to read a number plate containing symbols 79 mm high, which is obviously more than 20 metres away. If the candidate is unsuccessful, they should be asked to read another plate and, if necessary, allowed to walk forward until it is just over the appropriate distance away.

If the second plate is not read correctly, the examiner must use the official tape to measure the precise distance from a third plate. If the candidate fails to read the third plate, and the examiner is satisfied beyond doubt of their inability to comply with the eyesight requirement, they should be informed they have not reached the required eyesight standard, this means they have not passed and the remainder of the test will not be carried out. Item 1 on the DL25 should be marked and a note `Tape used’ showing size of symbol and measured distance inserted on the back of the DL25, together with the correct number and the candidate’s interpretation of it.

A DL25 should be issued, the D255 must be completed, and a copy attached to the DL25b, these should be retained in a file in the DTC for inspection by the LDTM.

A candidate must never be asked to read a number plate at a distance less than 20 metres. If the candidate uses glasses to read a number plate, and then removes them to drive, the examiner should point out that, if they can only read the plate with the aid of glasses, the law requires them to be worn whenever they are driving. If they subsequently take them off during the drive, they should be informed that unless they are worn when driving, the test will be terminated.

Note: If you are aware a candidate has dyslexia you should establish if any adjustments are required for the eyesight test.

Black on Yellow is ordinarily easier to distinguish by most dyslexic candidates. They may also read back to front or in a non-uniform order and may have difficulty distinguishing between certain images, for example B and 8, D and O, 5 and S. They may find it easier to write down the letters and numbers rather than reading them out - this is deemed to be a reasonable adjustment.

The eyesight test is a legal requirement and the correct procedure must be carried out. However, providing the test is not undermined, common sense should be applied where the numbers or letters are ambiguous.

The following advice may help examiners to deal with unusual situations:

If at any time prior to the eyesight test it transpires that a candidate is without their glasses, or has the wrong ones, they should be told that, if they take and fail the eyesight test, their driving test will be recorded as a failure. If the candidate elects to continue the examiner should proceed with the test in the normal way
If the candidate attempts to read a number plate, with or without glasses, but is unable to do so, and then explains that they have either lost or broken their glasses or has brought the wrong ones, they must fail
If the light is suitable for testing but nevertheless cannot be considered `good daylight’, the candidate may, if necessary, be asked to read a number plate at the measured distance. However, if they cannot do so, they should not be regarded as having failed, and the test should be terminated and the circumstances reported to booking section

Bioptic (telescope) spectacles

DVLA Drivers’ Medical Group has advised that bioptic devices are currently not acceptable for driving in Great Britain. Consequently if a candidate attends for test with bioptic (telescope) spectacles the eyesight test must not commence if they try to use one of these devices.