There has been an abundance of debate over the years about what motorists should be legally required to disclose to the DVLA and one of the most common relates to those who have impaired vision.
The government regulations which medical professionals must follow when assessing drivers with visual disorders, require all licenced drivers to meet the following eyesight standards:
In good daylight, able to read the registration mark fixed to a vehicle registered under current standards:
- At a distance of 20 metres with letters and numbers 79 mm high by 50 mm wide on a car registered or
- At a distance of 20.5 metres with letters and numbers 79 mm high by 57 mm wide on a car registered and
- The visual acuity must be at least have a score of 6/12 on the Snellen chart with both eyes open or in the only remaining eye if monocular
Many of you may be reading this now and wondering whether you can actually meet the requirements as a registration at 20 m may be more difficult to read than you might think. If any driver is unable to meet these standards, they should not drive and they themselves should notify the DVLA. This may ultimately mean that any licence application is refused or a current licence is revoked unless you take steps to correct any impairment.
There has also been some talk in the media about whether the law goes far enough to enforce such issues (i.e. should we rely on the honesty of motorists or should the opticians/medical professionals be required to inform the DVLA directly?)
Enforcing such requirements upon the medical profession may certainly yield positive results but the question of whether the law should impose said requirement remains a tricky area.
The legal onus to report conditions has always been upon the individual as medical practitioners are bound by patient confidentiality laws- and with good reason. Patients need to feel safe seeing their GP and not have to worry about any additional consequences which may deter people from seeking medical assistance when they need it.
The General Medical Council issued guidance and updated specific principles about reporting concerns to the DVLA. The GMC clearly states what steps a doctor should take if they believe a patient may pose a risk to others by continuing to drive. Contrary to the widely held belief, doctors are (in some circumstances) advised to inform the DVLA but there is a process to be followed and this is that they should:
- Assess the patient’s fitness to drive against the required standard
- Tell the patient to inform the DVLA
- Try to persuade the patient to stop driving
- Consider the potential risk (and report to DVLA if felt necessary)
- Keep detailed records
How information is handled has been a controversial topic in recent years (we’ve all been bombarded by cookie notices, right?) and this needs to be considered when proposing any changes to what medical professionals are required to do in terms of disclosure. There must still be an element of faith given to the general public to disclose conditions and make responsible decisions themselves.
From the motorist’s side, our advice is to always be honest and upfront with the DVLA about any medical conditions. Prescription glasses and contact lenses etc can of course help you meet the legal requirements in respect of your vision and ignoring the issue could result in far greater consequences than a revoked licence.
If you drive when essentially unfit to do so, you could ultimately face charges of careless/dangerous driving or in the worst cases, an allegation involving a fatality following a road traffic accident.
The prospect of losing the ability to drive may be devastating for many people who depend upon their vehicle, but ignoring any vision impairment instead of correcting it could, at its worst, result in a prison sentence if any severe accident occurs. As ever, motorists should err on the side of caution and seek advice when needed to ensure they are driving safely and in compliance with the law.