Driving Test Eyesight Test

Upon arrival to the practical driving test centre, you will have a short wait before your examiner comes to call your name, introduce themselves and ask to see both parts of your provisional driving licence.

After the formalities of signing the declaration form stating that you are who you say you are and that you are legally entitled to drive the car for the test, you will be asked to show the examiner where your car is.

On the way to your car, the examiner will briefly stop you to conduct a simple eye test. Although the driving test eye test is simple, your driving test can easily be terminated if you fail the eye test. Explained is the driving test eyesight test and what’s involved.

The driving test eye test is a simple procedure involving the driving examiner asking you to stand a certain distance from a vehicle. This isn’t the car you are using for the test, the vehicle is randomly chosen by the examiner. This distance is:

  • 20 metres for a car number plate made after 1 September 2001
  • 20.5 metres for car number plates made before 1 September 2001
UK car number plate explanation for vehicles 2001 onwards
UK car number plate explanation for vehicles 2001 onward

If your need to wear glasses or contact lenses to read the number plate, you must also wear these during your practical driving test. Essentially, you will be offered three chances at correctly reading the number plate during the eyesight test. If you failed the first attempt, the examiner will request that you try an alternative number plate on a different vehicle.

If on the second attempt you failed, the examiner will measure the distance to ensure accuracy and you will be offered a third and final attempt. Failure on the third attempt will result in the driving test being terminated and as a result, your driving test fee will be lost.

It is a requirement that examiners terminate the driving test on the failure of the third attempt at the driving test eye test as it is a legal requirement that all drivers must be able to read a number plate from the distances specified. It is the driving test candidates responsibility that they ensure they take precautions to ensure their eyesight will meet the legal requirements and that they take appropriate eyesight correction wear if applicable to the driving test.

Driving eyesight requirements

Learner drivers and qualified drivers must by law be able to read a UK number plate from the distances specified above regardless of age and experience. Driving with bad eyesight can potentially result in a fine and penalty points. Police officers may stop your vehicle and test your eyesight by using the driving examiners method if they feel that it may have been the result of them stopping you. If you are unable to satisfy them that your eyesight is safe for driving, it may result in 3 penalty points on your driving licence and anything up to a £1000 fine.

Failed driving test due to bad eyesight

The driving test eye test is compulsory and although the majority of test candidates do pass the eyesight test, for those that don’t, it is a particularly unfortunate way to fail. If you do fail the eyesight test, the DVLA will be informed and your licence will be revoked. Upon reapplying for your licence, the DVLA will request that you take a eyesight test at a driving test centre and pass in order to receive your licence. You will still be required to take the standard eyesight test when attending your practical driving test.


18 thoughts on “Driving Test Eyesight Test”

  1. Moyra Smith

    In order to renew my Over 70 Driving licence I have been told I need to take a car registration plate recognition test but although trying to contact the Basildon Driving Centre by various methods I cannot obtain a date and time for such a test. How can I get help fixing this? Any help in arranging this would be very much appreciated.
    Moyra Smith

  2. Hello Moyra,
    I have removed your telephone number from your comment. The car registration plate vision test is something examiners do before taking the test candidate out in the car for the practical driving test. Usually, if you’ve been informed that you need an eyesight test, it would be conducted by an optician.

    If you have to take a driving test in order to continue driving, the eyesight test (conducted by the examiner) will automatically be carried out at the start of the test.

  3. Lphillips

    I’m looking to upgrade my automatic license to a manual I know I need to redo my test in a manual will they still give me a eyesight test before hand?

  4. Hello Lphillips,
    Yes, they will still carry out the eyesight test. It’ll be the standard driving test that everyone takes – just in a manual car.

  5. Lphillips

    Thank you for the reply. If I was to fail the eyesight test, will this effect my current automatic licence?

  6. No, but but if for what ever reason the police stop you and suspect you do not have eyesight to the required standard, you can potentially be fined up to £1000 and receive 3 penalty points. I’d recommend having your eyes tested before the test because if you fail the eyesight test, your driving test will not go ahead, you’ll lose the test fee and have to book another test. Measure 20 metres for a registration plate and see how easy you can read it. That should give you an idea.

  7. What if you are able to see the number plate on the second of third test

  8. Hi Ron,
    If you can read the number plate on the second attempt after failing to read it correctly on the first attempt, then all is good and you’ll head out to your car where the examiner will inspect your vehicle and begin the show me, tell me questions.

  9. Trevor

    I failed the eyesight test, and DVLA asked me to return the (provisional) licence. They recommend me to do a D1 form with a doctors certificate (evidence of vision).
    When I reapply for the licence (I assume by completing and sending a D1 form, along with my passport, and payslip [any timeframe? Or does it have to be within a certain period?]), what should I select from each section? Can I return the documents all at once, instead of just the licence first, then the D1 (and supporting documents)?
    Where do I send the D1 and licence? To the Swansea office? Or to the DVLA test centre where I failed the eyesight test?
    Once I send the D1 and my (provisional) licence, do I have to redo the Theory test as well? Or do I just have to do an eyesight test (retrieve my licence, and book and do the practical test (and it’s included eyesight test)?

  10. Hi Trevor,

    Technically, you will not have a licence, so you can apply for it whenever you like. You will of course need a recent doctors certificate whenever than may be. I would advise that you send all the requested documents at once in a signed for package. The DVLA have been known to misplace items, so sending them all at once in a signed for packed reduces your risk. You can send them to the Swansea address: DVLA Swansea SA99 1BN. I cannot recommend which sections or boxes you tick on the D1 form, you’ll need to ask your doctor for help to do that. You’ll just need to take the driving test again, unless of course your theory test has expired.

  11. Lisette

    When I applied for my provisional licence I had perfect vision. I now need glasses for short sightedness. Do I need to tell DVLA this before I take my test? And if so, how do I do that?

  12. Hi Lisette,
    No, you do not need to tell the DVLA about your short sightedness, unless your optician or GP have specifically told you that you need to. The obligation for the standards of vision for driving is on you as the driver. You must be able to read a car number plate (with your new glasses) from 20 metres.

  13. Lisette

    Thank you. Is that definitely the case with a provisional licence as my driving instructor thought it would be a problem when I take my test?

  14. Hi Lisette,
    Legally you only need to inform the DVLA on whether you wear glasses upon licence application, or if your GP or optician tell you to at any other time. Run through the ‘report an eye condition to the DVLA‘ system. It’ll tell you what conditions you need to report. If your condition is short sightedness (myopia), then you shouldn’t need to report it (provided of course that it has been corrected). If in any doubt about your specific condition and the legality of driving, please consult your optician.

    At the start of the driving test, the examiner will carry out an eye test (reading a car number plate from 20 metres – see above for details). Provided you pass that, you’re good to go.

  15. lisette

    Thank you!

  16. Anonymous

    Question, is it required to visit the optician before you are allowed to take driving test/exam?

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