Motorists still driving below legal vision standard, despite advice

AOP launches Don't swerve a sight test campaign ahead of Road Safety Week

  • Optometrists see as many as two patients a month who continue to drive despite being told their vision is below the legal standard – a rise on 2018 figures
  • Almost 3000 injuries on UK roads each year are estimated to be caused by drivers with poor vision
  • A shocking, one in 10 (12%) motorists would continue driving as normal if told their vision could not be corrected to meet the legal standard, while 42% would continue to drive in some capacity, such as cutting back on journeys or only driving locally
  • One in 20 UK motorists admit they’ve doubted their own vision yet done nothing about it
  • The Association of Optometrists’ (AOP) Don’t swerve a sight test campaign is calling for a law change – citing UK regulation as some of the most relaxed in Europe

Almost 40% (37%) of optometrists1 in the UK have seen as many as two patients in the last month who continue to drive despite being told their vision is below the legal standard.  

Latest findings from the AOP reveal an increase on the number of motorists being asked to stop driving because of the risk they pose to themselves and others – up 2% on 2018.  

Optometrist and AOP Head of Clinical and Regulatory, Henry Leonard said: “What many might perceive as a small increase is deeply disappointing and has frightening consequences. We are seeing a rise in the number of people who have a disregard for how important good vision is for driving ability and it’s impacting the safety of the individuals who use our roads.

“Sight loss can often be gradual, and can go unnoticed so if you’re a driver, make sure you have regular checks, at least every two years, from your optometrist. It’s the best way to ensure you meet the legal standard.”  
Under existing UK law, drivers must undergo an initial number plate test when taking a driving test, then complete a self-declaration for renewing their licence thereafter. This means a 17-year-old who can read a number plate from 20 metres away when they take their test, may continue to drive with no further checks for the rest of their life. 

UK laws are among the most relaxed in Europe. The AOP is calling for a change that requires all UK drivers to have a comprehensive vision check to prove they meet the legal standard when they first apply for their licence and then every 10 years thereafter, or more frequently after 70.

An estimated 2900 injuries on our roads each year are caused by drivers with poor vision.2

What the public say on driving and vision 

  • Around half (47%) of the public agree the laws on vision for driving should be more rigorous 
  • Of those who want more rigorous laws – half (49%) believed a compulsory sight test should be part of a licence being granted and a quarter (26%) wanted motorists to have a sight test at least every 10 years
  • Nearly nine in 10 (86%) regular drivers would be happy to have their vision checked every five years or more frequently
  • Nearly a fifth (17%) of regular drivers admitted they have never self-checked their own vision by reading a number plate as suggested by the DVLA’s recommendations3
  • A quarter (27%) of the public would do nothing if they knew a friend or family member who continued to drive with poor eyesight
Ahead of Road Safety Week (18-24 November) the AOP is encouraging support for it’s Don’t swerve a sight test campaign. Members of the public and those in the optometry profession can share resources available on the campaign page at


High resolution images and the campaign video can be access in this Dropbox folder.
For more information, please contact Serena Box, PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, [email protected], or telephone 020 7549 2040.

Notes to Editors

Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 82% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit 


  1. The Voice of Optometry panel was set up and launched in 2017 by the AOP and conducted by Alpha Research. All qualifying AOP members with email addresses were invited to take part in the third survey from 12 February 2019. 1063 practising optometrists completed the online survey by the closing date of 22 March 2019  
  2. Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers by RSA Insurance Group plc, 2012
  3. DVLA – Driving Eyesight Rules