Driving Vision Standard Rules – Do you need glasses to drive?

Do you need glasses to drive abroad? We look at the minimum standard for eyesight across the world

Can you read a car number plate from 20m?  That means your vision meets the minimum eyesight standard for driving, by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale, (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary). However, if you’re planning to drive abroad you need to know and meet the eyesight rules to drive.

Driving Eyesight Standards by Country

Most people know that good vision is fundamental to driving safely. It is but one of our primary senses, but around 75% of adults require corrective glasses/contact lenses. We’re not saying that 75% of adults have inadequate vision to drive. But there is a significant percentage of our population that requires a form of vision correction to drive safely. Here in the UK, the minimum standard of eyesight requirement is that a driver should be able to read a number plate from 20m. But what about if you are planning to drive abroad? 

We thought we would take a look at the mini

mum standard of eyesight required for driving in different countries to see how this compares to the UK. The results are a bit of an eye-opener (pardon the pun). If you are planning to drive in Italy or Turkey, take heed! The minimum standard of eyesight is much higher than in the UK. More interestingly and rather worryingly, is the fact that Canada has a very low threshold of just 0.4,  20/50 or 6/15 on the Snellen chart. The country with the lowest vision standard is India at just 0.33 or 6/18. No wonder driving in India can be so hazardous!

Minimum driving eyesight standard

Driving Eyesight in the EU

We may be in the process of leaving the EU, but EU rules still apply to us if we drive in the EU. An EU wide directive 2009/113/EC covers all EU countries for minimum standards of eyesight to drive, but some member states have implemented a higher requirement. The table below illustrates the eyesight requirements to drive on a country by country basis. 

The EU Directive states; “For Group 1 drivers, the visual acuity standard is binocular vision of at least 0.5 decimal (0.3 logMAR, 6/12 Snellen equivalent) and a visual field extending to 120 degrees in the horizontal meridian”. – EU wide – higher for HGV / bus/coach drivers”

Driving standards abroad table


Driving Eyesight in the USA

Things are a little different in the USA. For a start, all vision quality measurements are in imperial, as 20/40 rather than the more familiar 6/12 format used elsewhere. The minimum standard of eyesight to drive in the USA is determined by each state, but the general requirement is the same as the UK.

Do I need 20/20 Vision to Drive?

20/20 or 6/6 is considered Normal vision. It is only in Italy and Turkey that this is the minimum standard of eyesight required to drive, with the majority of counties requiring only half that standard with 20/40 (6/12) being considered acceptable.

Eyesight Test When Driving Abroad

If you hire a car abroad, you will not be required to pass an eyesight test when collecting the vehicle. The rental agent will check your driving license and other documents. But assuming that all is present and correct they will usually hand over the keys without mentioning your eyesight. It is considered the responsibility of the driver to ensure their eyesight is sufficient to drive safely within that country.

However, many countries require an up to date optical prescription when issuing a driving license. This is unlikely to affect anyone hiring a car, provided your driving license has been issued in accordance with the rules of your license issuing country. But,  you should be aware of the minimum standard of eyesight required to drive for the countries you may be visiting and renting a car. 

Eyesight Tips When Driving Abroad

Always check the minimum standard of eyesight required to drive in a foreign country before you go. We always recommend that you leave a spare pair of glasses in the car at all times (a useful tip for glasses wearers at home also). If swapping your driving glasses for sunglasses when driving, ensure your eyesight still reaches the minimum standard of eyesight required to drive in those sunglasses.

If you are concerned you may not meet the minimum standard of eyesight required to drive please feel free to give us a call and book an appointment with one of our optometrists and dispensing opticians. 

Failing a roadside eyesight test whilst driving can lead to significant fines and having your license revoked. It could invalidate your insurance. If you are involved in an accident and be found to have inadequate eyesight, you could be prosecuted.

Unsure if your eyesight is up to scratch? Give us a call in Greenfield, Saddleworth on 01457 353100 or Meltham, Holmfirth on 01484 907090

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