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Driving towards safer roads: DVLA's game-changing updates to eyesight rules and conditions list

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in the UK has recently announced significant updates which are said to work towards improving road safety. 

These updates are in relation to the eyesight rules and the conditions list for drivers. The aim is to ensure that drivers have optimal vision and to provide a comprehensive framework for disclosing any medical conditions that might impact their ability to drive safely, such as glaucoma and macular oedemas amongst others. 

Recognising that eyesight can deteriorate over time, the DVLA is in discussion with optometrists to introduce new eyesight rules that go beyond the traditional number plate test.

Where are we now and what are the changes?

Eyesight regulations

Under the current regulations, drivers are required to read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres during their driving test. However, the updated rules propose a more thorough eyesight test, evaluating not only the ability to read number plates but also peripheral vision, depth perception, and other crucial aspects of vision. 

These expanded tests may be conducted by opticians or ophthalmologists to ensure accuracy and reliability. Moreover, drivers may be required to provide evidence of a recent eyesight test when applying for or renewing their driving license.

Conditions list

In addition to the eyesight rules, the DVLA is also revising the conditions list for drivers. 

Currently, drivers are obligated to disclose specific medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, and heart conditions. However, the updated conditions list will include a broader range of medical conditions that may affect a person's ability to drive safely. 

The objective is to ensure that drivers are fully aware of their own health status and the potential impact it may have on their driving capabilities. Drivers will need to stay informed about the updated list and promptly notify the DVLA of any newly developed medical conditions to comply with the regulations.

In contrast to the current position, optometrists will play a vital role under these updates, particularly in conducting the expanded eyesight tests. Their expertise will be crucial in assessing drivers' visual capabilities and determining whether they meet the required standards. 

These updates underline the importance of maintaining clear vision for safe driving. By introducing more comprehensive eyesight tests and expanding the conditions list, the DVLA aims to identify potential risks and ensure that drivers are fit to operate a vehicle. These measures will not only enhance individual safety but also contribute to a safer driving environment for all road users.

Optometrists are continuing to work alongside the DVLA to advise on the practicalities of the proposed conditions list. Optometrists have reported that the DVLA are open to dialogue and in finding pragmatic solutions for motorists. They added that "the extent of the original list really would have been problematic for so many" so they're "incredibly pleased to see that the DVLA have listened to the advice of the sector." They estimate that guidance will be released in the coming weeks.

Whilst I do have concerns over the breadth of the new potentially onerous regulations and what impact they could have on current motorists' abilities to drive in the future, I think these updates emphasise the importance of clear vision and responsible disclosure, ultimately hoping to contribute to a safer driving environment. This certainly is an area that will benefit from review, with eyesight as the primary cause of an estimated 2,900 casualties annually

Personal injury claims arising from eyesight issues represents a distressing reality and often results in catastrophic outcomes. I'm hopeful that reforms to reduce this are met will provide some safeguards to individuals from the debilitating consequences of impaired vision related incidents.

Further updates in discussion

Introducing graduated driving licences for new drivers under 25-years-old

This would involve under-25s being banned from carrying fellow under-25s as passengers for between six months to one year after obtaining their full driving license. 

Charity Brake welcomes this change and states that collisions are currently the leading cause of death among young people, and globally among 15 to 29-year-olds.

Roll-out of 20mph speed limit zones in Wales 

This is to be expected in September 2023 following an initial successful roll-put to 8 areas across Wales. Some 30mph roads will have their speed limits reduced to 20mph in the hope of reducing collisions, improving walking and cycling opportunities, improving safety on the streets and helping the environment.

Expanding London's Ultra Low Emission Zone

Proposals are that this will now cover all London boroughs from 29 August 2023 in efforts to improve air quality. A daily charge of £12.50 will apply if you drive in a ULEZ, also extending to residents living in a ULEZ with cars that don’t meet the emission standards.

Pavement parking ban in Scotland, possibly extending to other UK countries

Despite being written in the Highway Code, this rule is rarely enforced save for in Wales and in some London boroughs. This is tipped to change in Scotland in response to long campaigns.

Updates to the e-scooter safety trial 

In a recent e-scooter trial report, it's stated that 5% of e-scooter users reported a collision in the last 12 months, with most perceived to be as a result of 'user error.'

Proposals are to introduce formal training in the hope that educating users may reduce these stats. Discussion has also recently taken place in the House of Commons regarding introducing legislation in respect of e-scooters, but this area is still very much in development.

Possible extension of first MOT requirements from three years to four years 

This approach is already standard across many EU countries. The government has reviewed the collision stats for new vehicles approaching their first MOT and stated that they are very low. 

Moving the first MOT for new vehicles from three years to four years is not anticipated to have any impact on vehicle safety. Any concrete changes will only be made following a Government and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency consultation.

Expanding the Highway Code to include self-driving cars within two years 

The government has stated that it aims to have a framework in place for self-driving vehicle technology by 2025.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families following road collisions at our dedicated road traffic accidents claims section.

New rules for eye sight could mean that anyone who wears glasses to drive will need to tell the DVLA about their eye condition.”