The new DVLA campaign on drivers’ vision means well but could it lull drivers into a false of security, and let the Department of Transport think they’ve ticked the box for road safety vision this year?

On the face of it, DVLA reminding the public of the number plate test as “a quick and easy way to check they meet the minimum eyesight requirements for driving” is helpful.

They remind drivers that by law they must meet the minimum eyesight standards at all times including being able to read a number plate from 20 metres.

They urge drivers concerned about their eyesight to visit their optician or optometrist for an eye test, adding that it’s really important to have regular eye tests. Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time, they add, and we would add that you can lose up to 40% of vision without noticing it.

But while it is fine to explain what 20 metres looks like at the roadside and to say it takes just a couple of seconds, let’s not forget that all that’s happening here is a reminder of the meagre minimum standard set in the 1930s when few people drove cars, and when those cars were not the lethal ton of metal they are today.

Were we drafting their campaign messages we’d say that it’s advisable for drivers to visit their opticians at least every two years and certainly not just when they have a concern for their vision.

We’d also stress the need to measure peripheral vision, which only an optician can measure, and other aspects of vision that require a full eye examination.

In fact I’d argue that the campaign is tilting at windmills by targeting the public and behavioural change in the first place.

The DVLA has no choice to do this.  In the UK, unlike many other European states, drivers have to self-report and self-regulate their vision, despite a ton of evidence showing that Brits often neglect eye-exams. This leaves many oblivious of deteriorating vision, or reliant on DIY vision MOTs like this ‘5 car length’ tip offered, somewhat quixotically, by the DVLA, and which can create a false sense of security.

As all experts are saying, this is one for the politicians, not the DVLA.  The UK needs mandatory eye exams for drivers as part of their licence renewal applications, hence my Driving Blind Manifesto, which will be presented in the House of Commons.

Trying to educate drivers to change behaviours when you could change those behaviours with better controls is common sense.  If you have not done so yet, support this move by signing the petition at