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Eyesight standards when driving abroad

Monday, September 16, 2019 - 09:14
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It’s well known in the UK that employers have a legal responsibility under EU legislation to ensure that employees meet the minimum eyesight standards when driving on company business. Whether an integral part of an employee’s role, or simply travelling for business, employers have a duty of care to ensure that its staff meet the minimum eyesight standards for driving for their own safety and that of other road users.

Less well known however is that many countries have different minimum eyesight standards to drive and if an employee is taking to the road in another country on company business, meeting those standards are likely to vary from the UK, however the consequences are likely to remain as severe, if not more so should an employee fail a road-side sight test whilst driving abroad.

Failing a road-side sight test in the UK can lead to 3 to 6 penalty points being applied to the driver’s license and a fine of up to £1,000. The company could also be found liable to failing to provide its duty of care should the company be found not have taken reasonable steps to ensure its staff meet the minimum eyesight standards to drive or have adequate provisions in place to check.

What is the minimum eyesight standard?

As of 01 September 2001, drivers in the UK must be able to read a standard UK number plate from 20m in good light conditions, equating to a visual acuity of at least 0.5 (6/12) as measured on the Snellen scale (required in both eyes, or if only sighted in one eye, that eye) and can be achieved by wearing corrective glasses or contact lenses.

HGV and PSV (lorry and bus) drivers however must achieve visual acuity of at least 0.8 (6/7.5) in their best eye and at least 0.1 (6/60) in the other eye. Corrective eye-glasses can be worn to achieve this standard with a maximum of (+) 8 dioptres or contact lenses. There is no limit for the corrective power of contact lenses that can be worn.

What are the minimum eyesight standards abroad?

As with many standards and limits related to driving, the minimum eyesight standard for driving varies by country. A study by Rhinocarhire.com outlines the standards for various countries which demonstrates a significant difference, even within EU countries.

The UK’s immediate neighbours, Ireland and France share the UK’s standard with a visual acuity of 0.5 required, however cross the border into Italy and that jumps to 1.0, double that of the UK’s standard and more than that required for HGV and PSV drivers. In practice this equates to having the ability to read a standard UK number place (Italian / EU number plates differ from UK style) from 40m rather than the UK’s minimum 20m. Switzerland has a minimum 0.63 visual acuity requirement to drive.

Companies should ensure their employees meet the minimum eyesight standards if driving outside of the UK before they travel and where HGV and PSV drivers are crossing borders in the EU, further checks should be carried out to ensure that employees meet the respective eyesight standards for HGV and PSV drivers.


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