Press release

DVLA response to the consultation on driver medical standards on eyesight and epilepsy

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

DVLA publishes response to consultation proposals to amend the minimum medical standards for eyesight and epilepsy related to driving.

The DVLA today (30 May 2012) published its response to the consultation proposals to amend the minimum medical standards for eyesight and epilepsy in relation to driving.

There will be some changes for drivers and riders with epilepsy and to the vision standards required for driving. There will be no change to the distance from which a number plate must be read to test visual acuity.

Road Safety Minister, Mike Penning, said:

Road safety is a top priority for the government and our licensing rules have an important role in ensuring that Britain maintains its position as having some of the safest roads in the world. We must make sure that only those who are safe to drive do so, while at the same time avoiding placing unnecessary restrictions on people’s independence.

We believe that these changes strike the right balance in allowing as many people as possible to drive, without compromising safety.

Some changes have already been introduced with the vast majority of the new standards expected to come into force later this year. This follows a public consultation that sought views on the implementation of European minimum medical standards for drivers. While UK standards must be at least at the level of a minimum standard, the UK is not required to relax existing domestic standards where these are justifiably higher than the EU ones.

The main aspects of the new standards, some of which are already in place, are featured below.

Eyesight

Group 1 – cars and motorcycles

  • There will be no change to the current distance from which a number plate must be read to test visual acuity. The consultation proposed reducing the distance to 17.5 metres but following further consideration the distance will remain at 20 metres.

  • In addition to the number plate test, new rules recently introduced mean that drivers must also declare that they have never been told that their vision is below that of the EU minimum measurement. Although an optician’s certificate is not routinely required a licence will be refused if a formal eye test reveals visual acuity to fall below that of the EU minimum measurement.

  • Lastly, there has been a change to the visual field standard in order to meet the EU minimum requirement.

Group 2 – buses and lorries

For these drivers, in addition to meeting the standards for Group 1 vehicles, higher standards apply which means if glasses are used to meet the standards required in either eye the strength of those glasses cannot exceed a certain limit.

Epilepsy

Group 1 – cars and motorcycles

  • For the first time, drivers who have only ever suffered seizures while asleep may now be considered for a licence after one year, instead of the current requirement of three years.

  • Additionally, the new rules will allow drivers who have only ever suffered seizures that have no impact on consciousness or the ability to act to apply for a driving licence one year from the date of their first seizure. Currently these drivers can only be licensed if they are free from these seizures for a period of 12 months.

The response to the consultation proposals can be seen online

Notes to editors

Driver licensing rules in the UK are currently governed by the second European Council Directive on driving licences (91/439/EEC) originally adopted in 1991, to be replaced by a third European Council Directive on driving licences with effect from January 2013. The minimum medical standards for the issue of driving licences are detailed in Annex III of both Directives.

Member States may apply stricter standards than those imposed by the EU.

The Secretary of State’s experts on the Honorary Medical Advisory Panels for eyesight and epilepsy have considered the medical Directives and how these compare with existing UK standards.

DVLA must ensure that any driver whose vision (binocular visual acuity) does not meet the EU vision standard of 6/12 (Snellen decimal 0.5) must not be licensed. The number plate test still applies and drivers are now also asked to declare that they have never been told by an optician or doctor that their vision is below that of the EU minimum measurement when applying for a licence. If it is below the minimum measurement then a licence will be refused irrespective of whether the number plate can be read from 20 metres.

For Group 2 drivers (buses and lorries) , previously, drivers had to demonstrate (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary), that they could meet a specific technical vision standard of at least 6/9 (Snellen decimal 0.67) in the better eye and at least 6/12 in the poorer eye. From 1 May 2012 the standard for the better eye is slightly higher at 6/7.5 (Snellen decimal 0.8). We must also ensure that any prescribed glasses do not have lenses so strong that they will affect the driver’s peripheral vision. The strength of the glasses needed to attain this standard must not exceed a power of +8 Dioptres. If the power of the glasses exceeds this DVLA cannot issue a vocational licence. (Contact lenses can be of any strength). The uncorrected acuity in each eye must still be at least 3/60. The consultation closed on 28 April 2011 and was published online, alongside the response to the consultation.

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