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Vision and Driving

  If you can't see properly, you can't drive safely ?
  sn fourteen has a vision defect which may affect driving performance. Just as your car needs regular checks to ensure that it is functioning normally, your eyes need to be checked regularly to ensure that your vision meets the eyesight standards required of all drivers.
Most drivers will reach the required eyesight standard without difficulty. Others may need glasses or contact lenses.
If you think your eyesight may not be adequate, you should visit your GP or optometrist and get it checked out now. Don't wait until renewing or applying for your licence.

 What is regular eyesight checks ?

The eyesight is checked :
when you apply for a licence, a new licence class or a new licence endorsement; and
each time you renew your licence.
The vast majority of people pass the eyesight screen check, which takes around 90 seconds. All driver licensing agents have eyesight checking machines that check:
how well you can see at a distance (visual acuity);
how well you can see to the sides (peripheral vision or field of vision).
The eyesight screen check is a cost-effective screening system to check that drivers have adequate vision to drive. It is designed to pick up people who have a blurry or lazy eye or poor side vision. The check is not a full examination and should not replace regular examinations by a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Driver licensing agent staff are not qualified to make a judgement on whether any poor vision found by the eyesight screen check is safe for driving or not. This is why they must refer people to an optometrist (or ophthalmologist or GP) who are better equipped to make that judgement.
If you can produce an eyesight certificate from an optometrist, ophthalmologist or GP you won't need to have your eyesight checked by the driver licensing agent.

 Can I wear glasses or contact lenses when my eyesight is checked? 
  Yes, but your licence will show that you need to wear them to drive. This is known as a 'licence condition'.
You should not wear reading glasses for the eyesight screen check - the six metre distance of the check isn't the range of standard reading glasses.

  Should drivers with monocular vision undertake the eyesight screen check?
  No. The eyesight screen check cannot check drivers who have monocular vision (sight in one eye only). Drivers with monocular vision should go to their optometrist, ophthalmologist or GP for an eyesight certificate.

 What if I have a visual condition such as cataracts?
  While you might pass the eyesight screen check, depending on the level of your condition, at some stage your optometrist, ophthalmologist or GP may recommend some driving restrictions (e.g. no night driving or more frequent eyesight checks for driving licensing purposes). Ask your optometrist, ophthalmologist or GP if you have any queries.

 How does vision affect driving?
  You need different kinds of vision to be able to drive safely. These are explained below.
Distance vision
The ability to see clearly is essential for safe driving. Even the simplest reactions can take 0.4 seconds. If distance vision is poor, hazards may not be seen until it is too late to react safely.
For example, it takes four times as long to stop from a speed of 80 km/h as it does from 40 km/h. This means the faster you travel, the less time you have to see things and react to them.
Poor distance vision and excessive speed increase the risk of making unreliable judgements, with potentially disastrous results.
Distance vision can also be affected by the state of your windscreen and glasses. These should be kept clean and free of dust and scratches, which can greatly reduce vision on bright days and at night. Scratched sunglasses should not be worn when driving.

Field of vision (peripheral)
The ability to see to both sides is particularly important for the early recognition of cross-traffic, pedestrians and animals at the roadside, without having to look away from the road ahead.
Your optometrist, ophthalmologist or GP can show you a simple method of self-checking your field of vision. Make the best use of your side and rear view mirrors, and keep them adjusted correctly.

Other kinds of vision
While the eyesight check does not cover depth perception, night vision and colour vision, they can all affect your driving.

Depth perception
Passing other vehicles and changing lanes requires good judgement of distance, especially in busy traffic. A person with good eyesight has the most reliable depth perception.
Drivers who have recently lost the use of one eye need to take extra care. They may need to stop driving for a period of time until their vision has adjusted.

Accommodation (near vision focusing)
A driver needs to look from the road to the dashboard and back again quite frequently. This ability to change focus from far to near is called accommodation. Over the age of 45, most people have gradually increasing difficulty with near vision, and may require glasses to see dashboard instruments clearly.

Night vision
Night vision requires the ability to see in low and variable light conditions. It also requires an ability to recover quickly from the glare of oncoming headlights. Glare recovery is best in drivers under the age of 30, and night vision can deteriorate after the age of 40. Drivers over 40 should compensate to some extent for this reduction in the quality of night vision by driving more slowly.
Eyes are much slower to adapt to night-time light levels following exposure to bright light. Being outdoors in the sun for only a few hours can slow the dark adaptation process so that normal night vision may not be reached for several hours after dark. This temporary loss of night vision can be avoided if sunglasses are worn during the day.
Some people find that their night vision has deteriorated and they can't drive safely at night at all. However, it is possible to get a licence which allows you to drive in daylight only.

Colour vision
Colour plays an important part in road safety. Drivers must instantly recognise traffic lights, indicator signs, hazard warning lights and stop lights, and people with colour vision defects may be slower in reacting to them. Avoid the use of medium or dark blue sunglasses which can seriously interfere with some people's ability to distinguish traffic light colours.

  Should an older motorist give up driving?

Older drivers must pay special attention to their vision and driving ability. As long as their health and vision permits, older people can continue driving and maintain their mobility and independence.

 What are the recommendations for safety ?
  Keep windscreens, glasses, sunglasses and lights clean.
Frequently look in your rear vision mirrors and scan the verges of the road while driving.
Keep your speed down if conditions reduce visibility.
Use your sunvisor on bright days and consider having a pair of tinted glasses made to your prescription.
Never wear sunglasses for night driving.
Avoid excessive speed.
Don't drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.