The DVLA is encouraging drivers to take the ‘number plate test’ as a quick and easy way to check they meet the minimum eyesight requirements for driving.
By law, all drivers must meet the minimum eyesight standards at all times when driving - this includes being able to read a number plate from 20 metres.
The DVLA campaign encourages anyone with concerns about their eyesight to visit their optician or optometrist for an eye test.
Dr Wyn Parry, DVLA’s senior doctor, said: “The number plate test is a simple and effective way for people to check their eyesight meets the required standards for driving.
“The easiest and quickest way to do this is to work out what 20 metres looks like at the roadside - this is typically about the length of five cars parked next to each other - and then test yourself on whether you can clearly read the number plate.
“It’s an easy check to perform any time of day at the roadside and takes just a couple of seconds.”
Brake, the road safety charity, has been working with Vision Express through the ‘Driving for Zero’ campaign, to raise awareness of the dangers of poor eye health and to call for more to be done to tackle the issue of defective driver vision.
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “Any campaign to remind drivers to check their eyesight is welcome, however, awareness raising falls far short of tackling the true problem of poor driver vision, where a change in legislation is clearly required.”
Brake is calling for the law to be strengthened, to require drivers to prove to the DVLA they have had a recent, professional vision test when they take their driving test; and to be required to have tests during their driving life on a regular basis.
“It should be obvious to all that the ability to see clearly is fundamental to safe driving and so we urge the Government to act to address the shortfall in the law and introduce mandatory eye tests for drivers,” said Harris.
“At present, driver eyesight is only checked through a 20-metre license plate reading before the driving test, after which a driver may never again be required to prove that their vision is fit for driving.
“With eye specialists stating that the 20-metre test is inadequate in assessing driver vision, and research showing someone can lose up to 40% of their vision without being aware, it is time for mandatory eye testing to be introduced.”
Jonathan Lawson, CEO at Vision Express, continued: “It is estimated that as many as 1.5m UK licence holders have never even had an eye test and road crashes caused by poor driver vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties.
“However, the 'number plate' test was introduced over 80 years ago before the Second World War and eye testing has advanced significantly since then.
“The NHS recommends people should have an eye test every two years, so we would encourage the DVLA to remind drivers that whilst passing the number plate might be the legal limit, the Government's own advice is to have a full eye health check with a qualified optometrist."