Driving and your eyes – explaining the lingo
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is the organisation of the UK government responsible for maintaining a database of drivers in Great Britain and a database of vehicles for the entire United Kingdom.
- Snellen acuity
A Snellen chart used to measure visual acuity. The visual acuity test is used to determine the smallest letters you can read on a standardised chart.
The letters on a Snellen chart are arranged in lines that become smaller the further down you look.
Snellen charts are used by opticians to assess if your visual acuity is within the standards for driving
Normal vision is known as 20/20 vision in the US; in the UK it is called 6/6 vision.
The first number of your visual acuity measurement refers to how far away you are from the chart, which is generally 6 metres (20 feet) and the second number is the distance from the chart at which a person with ‘normal’ eyesight would see it. This means if your vision is 6/12 that you can see, at 6 metres, what a ‘normal’ person can see at 12 metres from the chart.
6/12 vision approximates to the minimum standard for driving, although other factors such as you all round vision (visual field) must also me taken into account.
- Distance vision
The ability to see objects clearly from a distance, usually from 6 meters or more.
The DVLA requires that:
You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.
You must also meet 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) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye.
You must also have an adequate field of vision – your optician can tell you about this and do a test.
- Visual fields
The visual field refers to the area in which objects can be seen in the side (peripheral) vision as you focus your eyes on a central point. If you have problems with your visual fields you will need an assessment to ensure that they meet the standards for driving too.
- Dispensing optician
A dispensing optician (DO) advises on, fits and supplies the most appropriate spectacles after taking account of each patient’s visual, lifestyle and vocational needs. Dispensing opticians can help you find the best frames, lenses and tints for driving. They are also able to fit and provide aftercare for contact lenses after undergoing further specialist training.
- Driving test
The driving test is a test of competence that UK residents take in order to obtain a full Great Britain or Northern Ireland driving. There are two tests that need to be passed in order to obtain a full driving licence, first the theory test and then a practical test.
- Eye test
An eye test is a vital health check for your eyes. Every adult needs an eye test every two years, and some people may be advised to have a test more often.
During the eye test the optometrist checks if you need glasses, but they do much more than that too. When you have your eyes examined, the optometrist checks for eye diseases like glaucoma that you might not be aware that you are developing. They can also see signs of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes when they check the eye.
If you have concerns about your sight, or simply haven’t had an eye test in the last two years, visit your local optician. An eye test can help you drive more safely, protecting both yourself and others.