Driving Eyesight Rules – Do I need Glasses to Drive?

Can you read a car number plate from 20m? That might be acceptable in the UK, but if you're driving abroad you need to know the eyesight rules to drive.

Driving Eyesight Standards by Country

We all know that our eyesight is fundamental to driving safely, one of our primary senses, however around 75% of adults require, or wear corrective glasses / contact lenses. That’s not to say that 75% of adults have inadequate eyesight to drive, however there are a significant percentage of the population that require corrective eyewear to drive safely. In the UK, the minimum requirement is that a driver can read a number plate from 20m, (65ft) or the length of approximately 2 double decker buses (take our driving eyesight test to see what this looks like). But what happens when we rent a car and drive abroad? We look at the eyesight requirement in difference counties to see how this compares, the results are quite an eye opener (pun intended), with Italy and Turkey requiring a much higher standard of eyesight than the UK. Most interestingly, Canada has a very low threshold of just 0.4 or 20/50 on the Snellen chart, with India the lowest of those recorded of just 0.33 or 6/18. It's no wonder driving in India can be so hazardous!
 
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Driving Eyesight by Country
 
Country
Visual Acuity*
Snellen
Distance (M)**
Distance (ft)**
Buses***
Australia
0.5
6/12
20
65
1
Austria
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Belgium
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Bulgaria
0.8
6/7.5
32
104
3
Canada
0.4
20/50
16
52
2
Colombia
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Croatia
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Cyprus
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Czech Republic
0.7
6/8.7
28
91
3
Denmark
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Estonia
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Finland
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
France
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Germany
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Greece
*
*
*
*
*
Hungary
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
India
0.33
6/18
13
42.25
1
Ireland
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Israel
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Italy
1
6/
40
130
4
Japan
0.7
6/8.7
28
91
3
Mexico
0.8
20/25
32
104
3
New Zealand
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Nigeria
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Norway
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Poland
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Portugal
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
South Africa
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Spain
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Sweden
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Switzerland
0.63
6/9.5
25
81.25
2+
The Netherlands
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
Turkey
1
6/
40
130
4
UK
0.5
6/12
20
65
2
USA
0.5
20/40
20
65
2
*Visual Acuity based on Binocular vision (both eyes), where monocular vision, values may vary
**Equivalent distance in metres or feet to read a UK typeface standard numberplate
***Equivalent number of double decker buses to read a UK typeface standard numberplate (approx)

Eyesight Test When Driving Abroad

If you’re hiring a car abroad, you’ll not be required to pass an eyesight test when collecting the car, the rental agent will check your driving license and assuming all present and correct will hand over the keys without mentioning your eyesight. It is considered the responsibility of the individual to ensure their eyesight is sufficient to drive safely.

Driving Eyesight in the US

The minimum eyesight requirement to drive in the USA is determined by state, however the general requirement is the same as the UK, although is measured as 20/40 rather than 6/12 format more commonly used elsewhere. As a sample, New York and California state;

"Visual acuity of at least 20/40 (based on the Snellen Visual Acuity Scale)"

Driving Eyesight in the EU

There is an EU wide directive 2009/113/EC which covers all EU countries for minimum standards of eyesight to drive, however some member states have implemented higher requirements. The table above shows eyesight requirements to drive on a country basis. The EU Directive states;

"For Group 1 drivers, the visual acuity standard is binocular vision of at least 0.5 decimal (0.3 logMAR, 6/12 Snellen equivalent) and a visual field extend¬ing to 120 degrees in the horizontal meridian". – EU wide – higher for HGV / bus / coach drivers"

Do I need 20/20 Vision to Drive?

Only in Italy and Turkey do you need 20/20 (6/6) vision to drive, in most other counties this standard is not required and the majority of counties require only half that standard with 20/40 (6/12) considered acceptable. Try our Driving Eyesight Test.

Driving Eyesight Standard

Driving License Eyesight Test

Many countries require an eyesight test certificate (or test) when issuing a driving license, this is unlikely to affect anyone renting a car, provided your domestic license has been issued in accordance with the rules of your license issuing country. However you should be aware of driving eyesight minimum requirements for countries you may be visiting and renting a car. For example, the table above shows that in Italy you need to have 20/20 (6/6) vision, whereas in the UK and most other EU countries this is only 20/40 (6/12), which suggests that you should be able to read a number plate from double the required 20m distance in the UK, that’s up to 4 double decker buses away, rather an just 2.

Eyesight Tips When Driving Abroad

Always check the eyesight driving requirements before driving in a foreign country. We recommend that you leave a pair of glasses in the car at all times (a useful tip for glasses wearers at home also). If you swap your driving glasses for sunglasses to drive, ensure your eyesight is still adequate, so either wear contact lenses or prescription sunglasses.

*The estimated distance from which you need to be able to read a car number plate is indicative only. The 20m (65ft) benchmark is taken from the UK based on 6/12 (20/40) vision on the snellen test and based on UK number plate standards (type face / size). If you are concerned you may not meet the eyesight requirements when driving, consult your optician. Failing a roadside eyesight test whilst driving could lead to a significant fine and suspension of your license and invalidate your insurance. If you are involved in an accident and found to have inadequate eyesight, you could be prosecuted.

Unsure if you're eyesight is up to scratch? Try our Driving Eyesight Test to see what it should look like when driving and what it could look like if your eyesight isn't sufficient. But most importantly, book for an eye test as soon as possible as it's not just your safety, but that of others too that you could be putting at risk.

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