An Optometrist has warned older drivers to get annual eyesight tests to stay on top of their eye health amid calls to make them mandatory. 

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency strongly recommends that senior drivers attend eye examinations every two years but there is currently no legal obligation to do so.

Under current rules, drivers are required to renew their driving licences at age 70 and every three years following.

However, various campaigners including eye and road safety experts are urging elderly motorists to have more regular checkups.

For instance, road safety adviser for GEM Motoring Assist, James Luckhurst, called for the introduction of a national portal where opticians could upload eye test details which are passed over to the DVLA.

In an interview with the Express, he commented that these results could then be checked alongside driving licence applications to make sure only motorists with healthy vision stay on the roads.

Meanwhile, Melissa Lloyd, a specialist optometrist at OCL Vision, also agreed that eye tests for the elderly should be more regular.

The expert explained: "Optometrists usually recommend annual eye tests at this age to help you keep on top of your eye health status and highlight any risk factors that may impact on your sight.

“As part of the licence renewal process, drivers are legally obligated to declare any medical conditions that may affect their ability to drive safely, including issues related to vision.

“If you are over the age of 70 and suffering from cataracts, glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration, these will need to be declared".

The specialist explained that optometrists play a crucial role in assessing the vision of drivers and identifying any issues that may impact their ability to drive safely.

Do all over 60s get free eye tests?

The optometrist also explained that sight tests are free on the NHS for those aged 60 and over.

The test is also free at any age if you have certain eye conditions such as glaucoma and diabetes or are receiving some state benefits such as Universal Credit.

However, the optometrist also urged the public to carry out their "own assessments at home as well".

The eye expert urged: "Monitor any changes in your vision and how difficult it is to focus on writing". 

“If you already require glasses or contact lenses, you are obliged to wear these to meet the minimum standards to get behind the wheel, otherwise you are putting yourself and others at risk.”

What are the DVLA rules for eyesight?

Under the current driving eyesight rules, you do not need to declare your eye condition to the DVLA if you are short or long-sighted or colour-blind.

The driving authority has also clarified that if you’ve had surgery to correct short-sightedness and you meet the eyesight standards, you will not need to declare this either. 

That being said, if you require contact lenses or glasses to meet the 'standards of vision for driving', you will need to wear them every time you get behind the wheel.

There are three tests that come under the DVLA's 'standards of vision for driving'.

These include the following:

  • 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.

For more information and guidance, visit the UK government website.

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DVLA eye conditions you currently have to declare

The DVLA has said that you must inform them if you have any of the following conditions (even if it's only in one eye). 

Among the visual conditions that you need to report are Behçet’s disease, Coats’ disease, Detached retina, Glaucoma, Retinal tear or detachment and Vein occlusion.

The full list of notifiable conditions can be accessed on the UK government website.

Recommended reading

How to report your eye condition to the DVLA

You can report your eye condition online via the government website.

For those that have a condition in one eye and another condition affecting the other eye,  form V1 should be sent to DVLA.