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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


Is your eye sight up to spec? Don’t risk your licence for the sake of an eye test and glasses.

Keep your eyesight up to spec with a regular eye test.

Having talked among ourselves about this issue only yesterday the headlines in the “Daily Telegraph” have today spurred us on to produce this blog. We have noticed that some of our older clients are unaware of the need to ensure that their eyesight is up to par when driving. We know that some are frightened that they may lose their licence and in turn their independence. That fear can be allayed, with good advice from Allegro Optical. Usually, spectacles can correct poor vision, and with frames starting at just £10 and lenses from £40 there really is very little to fear both in terms of cost and impact on lifestyle.

Older drivers are encouraged to have regular eye tests or risk losing their licence

Recently, an 87-year-old driver failed an eye test after narrowly missing a police car when he turned the wrong way onto a main road. Officers had just left the A3 near at Ripley, in Surrey, when a Honda Jazz pulled out of a junction, forcing their vehicle to swerve out of the way. Surrey police posted dash-cam footage of the near-miss on Sunday. The incident occurred as police launched a crackdown on drivers with defective eyesight.

Snellern chart professional eye tests at Allegro Optical opticians in Meltham Huddersfield and Holmfirth

The Legal Requirements:-

In good daylight, you must be able to read a vehicle number plate from a distance of 20 metres (or from a distance of 20.5 metres for old style number plates).

If you want to do your own number plate test, when walking down a street or in a car park, 20 metres is about 5 car lengths.

You must also have an adequate field of vision and a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary), using both eyes together or, one eye only if the driver only has sight in one eye.

If you need glasses or contact lenses to drive, you must wear them at all times when driving (see Rule 92 of the Highway Code). It is an offence not to do so, and may invalidate your motor insurance. It is a good idea to keep a spare set of glasses in the glove compartment.

For further info, see this dedicated website

Eyesight Tests

The best way to make sure that you meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving is to have an eyesight test at your opticians, every two years, or more often if the optician advises.

Older drivers are encouraged to have regular eye tests or risk losing their licence

You are entitled to a free eye test if you are 60 years or over, or have been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma or have been advised by an ophthalmologist that you are at risk of glaucoma. If you are 40 years or over, and have a mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter who has been diagnosed with glaucoma, you are also entitled to a free NHS sight test. You can also receive free eye tests if you receive certain social security benefits.

Any condition that affects both eyes (and the remaining eye if you only have one eye), except long and short-sightedness and colour blindness, should be reported to the DVLA (or the DVA in Northern Ireland). This does not necessarily mean you would lose your licence – an assessment of your eyesight will be made.

Brake joins forces with police to rid roads of defective driver vision get an eye yest and make sure your vision is up to spec

Eyesight can deteriorate gradually over time, and it can be difficult to realise it has fallen below the minimum standard. For instance, as we grow older our eyes become less able to react quickly to changes in light and we start to have difficulty with colours and contrasts in poor light. Between the ages of 15 and 65 years the time it takes to recover from glare increases from 2 to 9 seconds. This could be one reason why some people find driving at night more difficult.

New Crackdown

Many police forces have now cracked down on drivers with defective eyesight, with motorists being asked to read a number plate from 20m away. Anyone who fails will have their driving licence immediately revoked. Data from these tests will be used to improve understanding of the extent of poor driver vision. These moves are supported by road safety charity Brake and by Allegro Optical.

Brake has teamed up with police forces in Thames Valley, Hampshire and West Midlands to run a month-long campaign to get a better insight into driver vision. The forces will be revoking the licenses of those who don’t pass the 20m number plate check. During September, anyone stopped by Road Policing Officers in the above areas will be required to take the 20m number plate test.  Those who fail will have their licence immediately revoked. Data collected from each test and will then be used to gain an improved understanding of the extent of poor driver eyesight on our roads, which is thought to be vastly underreported in Government statistics.

Play safe and have an eye test

So, time to make sure your eyesight is up to spec!. Make an appointment today with Allegro Optical Ltd and don’t fall foul of the law. While the new routine roadside testing is initially being trailed in three southern counties as we speak we are sure it won’t be long before it comes into force nationwide.

We will help you to continue driving legally.

Allegro Optical Ltd

01484 90 70 90  

About Allegro

Vision, Music and Movement in Perfect Harmony

Ballet Dancer and Optician form Harmonious Bond

Contemporary dancer turned movement practitioner Sam McCormick of Curel CIC discovered Allegro Optical through a Business Network International training course. BNI is a business network with chapters the world over, and Sam and Allegro Optical are both members.
Sam started chatting with our Managing Director Sheryl while on the course. We arranged to meet a week or so later to see if there was a way our two businesses could work together.
Ballet Dancer Sam Lackford / McCormick buys her glasses and contact lenses from Allegro Optical Opticians in Meltham We were thinking maybe we could help Sam with our corporate eyecare connections. Curel delivers movement-based activities to help people live healthy and happy lives and one area they specialise in is workplace wellbeing, alongside team building sessions and engagement activities. We saw this as something our corporate eyecare clients might be interested in. Most of our corporate clients are very focused on employee wellbeing. We were sure Curel could provide them with a fantastic service while reducing absences and improving morale. Saving our clients time and money.

A clear vision

It was during this first meeting that Sam mentioned that she was having problems with her contact lenses. Sam is a very active lady, in addition to being the co-founder of Curel she is an independent dance artist. She is also Head of Dance for Flamingo Chicks, an inclusive dance school that provides opportunities for disabled children to enjoy ballet alongside their friends. As if that’s not enough Sam is an Associate Artist for English National Ballet, and she teaches at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. So as you can see she is very busy and as result spectacles aren’t really an option. So Sheryl suggested that Sam come to the practice for a consultation.

Ballet Dancer Sam Lackford / McCormick buys her glasses and contact lenses from Allegro Optical Opticians in Meltham

Sam visited Allegro Optical in Meltham and we carried out a sight test and contact lens check-up. We found a large increase in Sam’s prescription, particularly her astigmatism. Sam’s astigmatism had increased so much she was now out of the range for standard and toric (astigmatic) lenses. We had no option than to source the bespoke soft contact lenses for her. Sam collected them a few weeks later and tried them for a fortnight when she returned to the practice. Sam was very happy with her vision in the lenses but felt her eyes were a little dry. As with all yearly soft lens they are slightly thicker than a regular silicone hydrogel lens. We resolved the comfort issue by using lubricants and changing Sams contact lens solution.

A perfect partnership

Thanks to the improvement to her vision provided by her new contact lenses and their extended wear time Sam can now get on with her busy life without worrying about her eyesight. She has also invested in a fabulous pair of glasses for contact lens rest days.  With frames from our FYSH range from Denmark and high index free-form single vision lenses Sam’s vision is now fully corrected. She also has a gorgeous pair of prescription sunglasses thanks to our amazing free second pair offer, now Sam is ready for anything. When asked about her experience with Allegro Optical Sam said “Huge thank you to Allegro Optical for your help sorting my contact lenses and finding me some lovely new glasses! Will be recommending you!” Ballet Dancer Sam Lackford / McCormick buys her glasses and contact lenses from Allegro Optical Opticians in Meltham While all this was going on Sam and Sheryl also got to know each other’s businesses very well. As a result, we now always recommend Curel to our corporate eyecare clients to help them, help their teams reduce stress and sickness in the workplace.