A guide to visual standards for drivers

The role of the Medical Section within Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) is to promote road safety by establishing whether drivers who have medical conditions can satisfy the medical standards of fitness required for safe driving.

Circumstances in which DVA doesn't routinely require notification

If you are the holder of a car, moped or motorcycle driving licence (group one) you may not need to inform DVA of an eye condition. However, if your eyesight condition should worsen and you can't read a number plate or you lose any of your field of vision you must write and tell DVA.

In the interests of road safety you must be sure at all times that you can safely control a motor vehicle.

Sight in one eye only

If you only have sight in one eye you may still be able to meet the visual standards for driving set out below.

It may take up to three months for you to adapt safely to driving with one eye, be prepared for this. In particular your ability to judge distances accurately may be affected and you may not be aware of objects to either side of you.

Following the removal of cataracts

If you have had surgery to remove cataracts, your eyesight following surgery must be within the required standard specified below to allow you to continue driving.

Visual acuity standards

You must be able to read a standard size number plate (with glasses or corrective lenses if necessary) from 20.5 metres (67 feet) or 20 metres (65 feet) where narrower characters 50mm wide are displayed. This requirement is specified in law and any person driving on a public highway who is unable to do this is guilty of an offence.

The 'number plate test' may be self-administered, allowing you to keep a regular check on your visual ability. You should also be aware that if the police have reason to suspect that a driver is driving with defective vision they can require the driver to take a 'number plate test'. Failure may lead to prosecution.

Visual field standards

You must also ensure that you have an adequate field of vision. The field of vision standard requires a specific width of visual field without significant defects in the sensitive central area. If you have total loss of sight in one eye you must not have any defect in the visual field of the remaining eye.

If you have any doubt about whether you can meet the requirements, your GP (doctor), optician or eye specialist will be able to advise you.

Further information

If the above information indicates that you do need to notify DVA about your condition, you can do so by printing off and completing the optician's report below and sending it to:

Medical Section
Driver Licensing Division
Castlerock Road
Waterside
Coleraine
BT51 3TB

Alternatively if you meet all the requirements set out above, DVA don't require notification.  

If you have been advised by your doctor, optician or eye specialist that you should not be driving you may wish to voluntarily surrender your licence and re-apply for its return in the future when you have the support of your doctor(s).

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