Blurred vision over driver eyesight rules

Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 14:04
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70% of motorists surveyed by Venson Automotive Solutions have started wearing glasses or contact lenses since passing their driving test but have not informed the DVLA.

Most drivers are aware of the £1,000 fine for failing to update details such as name and address on their driving licence, but there is widespread uncertainty over whether the DVLA needs to be informed when someone must start wearing glasses or contacts for driving. If the DVLA is informed that a driver requires glasses or contact lenses to drive, an 01 code is added to the list on the reverse of the licence.

Simon Staton, director of client management at Venson Automotive Solutions explains: “Even the Government’s own website on driving eyesight rules is somewhat unclear and confusing. In one place it states that you must inform the DVLA of any problem with your eyesight but goes on to advise that this does not include being long or short-sighted. High street opticians are also adding to the confusion, first stating that it is not necessary to inform the DVLA, then immediately saying that you must declare it when applying for a licence.”

The DVLA website states that:

You must wear glasses or contact lenses every time you drive if you need them to meet the ‘standards of vision for driving’.

You must tell DVLA 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 and can meet the eyesight standards.

The legal requirements are in fact quite simple in most cases, but experts recommend employers take further action if their employees are required to drive as part of their job role.

Keith Bell of The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents explains: “Legally, if the driver of a car can read a newer-style number plate (2001 or later), from 20m away, with or without glasses or contact lenses for long or short-sightedness, they are classified as meeting the standards of vision for driving but must wear their glasses or contact lenses when driving if necessary to read the number plate.

“There is a set list of conditions which must be immediately declared, and this can be found at Gov.uk. There are also more stringent requirements for drivers of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and buses.”

If a driver was pulled over by the police and unable to pass the minimum visual test, they would face a fine of up £1,000 and 3-6 points, and the employer could be liable under duty of care laws. Any company – whether they run company cars, a grey fleet, HGVs or plant machinery – has a duty of care to make sure their employees are aware of the rules and always wear the corrective lenses they need to drive safely. Adding a requirement that those needing glasses or contact lenses have the 01 code on their licence reduces the risk to the employer as well as to the driver and other road users, by increasing the incentive to always wear the correct glasses or contacts when driving.

Employees who drive as part of their job role must have regular eyesight tests, under current EU legislation, and the employer has a duty of care responsibility to confirm they are fit to drive – this includes passing the eyesight requirements. Any employer found to be in breach of these rules, and therefore putting their employee and other road users at risk, could be prosecuted.

Staton continued: “We believe it should be a legal requirement to have 01 added to your licence if you need glasses or contacts to drive. With 70% of drivers not having done so, we advise businesses and those responsible for duty of care to ensure their employees driving for company business have informed the DVLA of their need for corrective lenses. This will reduce risk of business liability as well as increase safety on our roads.”

The 101 on Code 01

  • It is not a legal requirement for drivers to declare their need for corrective lenses when driving
  • Drivers can declare their need for glasses or contact lenses when driving, and have 01 added to the codes on their licence
  • If a driver without 01 on their licence is stopped by police, is not wearing corrective lenses and cannot pass the 20m number plate test without them, they will be fined up to £1,000
  • If an employee is driving for work, without required lenses, the employer could be liable and prosecuted under health and safety and duty of care laws
  • Employers should fund regular sight tests and ensure drivers have 01 added to their licences, where relevant, to encourage the wearing of the correct lenses at all times when driving

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