Driving in winter isn’t always much fun – with ice, rain, snow, high winds and bad light affecting our journeys
Drivers in their 40s often experience more difficulties with their vision during the winter months and we therefore advise a comprehensive sight test before the bad winter weather sets in – or take the risk of breaking the law as driving with uncorrected vision is not only an offence (punishable with a heavy fine, penalty licence points and possible driving disqualification) but your car insurance is also invalidated!
As a minimum legal requirement, motorists must be able to read a number plate from a distance of 20.5 metres (67 feet) and have a 120 degree wide field of view. This test is normally only carried out officially at the time of the driving test itself and recent research has shown that more than 10 per cent of drivers would fail a driving test if they re-took it today because of poor eyesight.
In law it is a driver’s responsibility to ensure that they can pass the number plate test at all times. They must also be able to see clearly out of the corners of their eyes, see clearly at night and not have double vision. It’s important to remember that if you fail to meet these visual standards you are breaking the law every time you start your engine.
For drivers, the importance of having a regular eye examination (at least every two years) is obvious, particularly bearing in mind that people’s eyesight changes over time. If you do need to wear spectacles or contact lenses to meet the visual standard for driving, it’s vital to ensure you wear them at all times. This may sound obvious but every day tens of thousands of motorists drive without their glasses because of vanity, or because they have forgotten them, or because they are only driving a short distance.
Some spectacles are better than others for driving, with rimless designs or those with thin rims being particularly suitable as they allow greater all-round vision than those with heavy frames. Spectacles with plastic lenses are lighter and safer. Anti-reflection coatings can be applied to any lenses at a reasonable cost, helping you to see more clearly and cut down on glare, especially when driving at night.
Make sure you keep your spectacles and contact lenses clean at all times – it’s best to keep a cleaning cloth in the car. It’s also sensible to keep a spare pair of glasses in the car so that you never forget them. This is also important if you normally wear contact lenses because on long journeys when your eyes get tired it is often more comfortable to switch to a pair of glasses.
Please ask us for advice regarding DVLA rulings regarding the acceptability of tinted lenses for driving.
Drink and Drugs
There are factors that can impair a driver’s eyesight temporarily. For example, alcohol can reduce your vision as well as slowing your reactions to potentially dangerous situations and can cause drowsiness even when the driver is below the legal alcohol limit. Some drugs or medicines can also reduce or impair your vision so you should always check with your doctor whether a prescription is safe for driving. Tiredness, particularly on long journeys, can reduce your ability to see clearly.
Any driver who thinks their eyesight does not meet the legal requirements must tell the licensing agency immediately. It is a criminal offence to fail to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of any eyesight conditions likely to cause a driver to be a source of danger to other road users. This applies to those suffering from cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes or any other relevant medical conditions, which constitute a notifiable disability. If a driver is involved in an accident and is then found to have an undeclared notifiable disability, insurance cover could be at risk. Having a notifiable eyesight condition does not necessarily mean that you will be banned from driving.
If you think you have a notifiable eyesight condition you must write to the Drivers Medical Branch, DVLA, Swansea SA99 1TU and provide them with as much information about your condition as you can.
The medical assessors at the DVLA will then do one of the following:
- Allow you to keep your licence without restriction
- Issue you with a licence for one, two or three years, in order to keep a regular check on your condition
- Refuse or withdraw your licence
To summarise, here are some suggestions stay safe at this time of year:
- If you haven’t had an eye test in the last two years and/or you wish to clarify any of the above please contact us to make an appointment to have your sight tested at David Snow Optician;
- If you have prescription glasses or contact lenses, always wear an up-to-date prescription whilst driving;
- Keep a spare pair of glasses in your vehicle (this is law in some other EU countries);
- Don’t use sunglasses for dusk/night driving;
- Keep your windscreen clean, inside and out.