A driver receives most of his information about the road situation through his eyes. Certain minimum vision requirements are laid down before a driver may obtain a licence, but everyone should always remember that their eyesight might slowly get slightly worse as time goes on. Any suspicions of eyesight problems should be followed up without delay because of the serious implications for driving safely.

Legal requirements

Section 21 of the 1968 Road Traffic Act requires that before the driving test may be conducted the Minister must be satisfied that the applicant’s eyesight reaches the prescribed manner.
The regulations prescribing the manner of so satisfying the Minister of the standard of sight are set out in SI 385/1989 (Reg. 42).

The need for an eyesight report arises in two ways:

An application for a provisional licence for categories A1, A, B, EB must be accompanied by an eyesight report, unless the applicant previously supplied one which is still valid, or he supplies or had supplied a valid medical report.

As part of a certificate of fitness where necessary by court order or where the applicant is “unfit”. Generally the latter need arises where an applicant for a licence cannot declare that he is free from the prescribed diseases and disabilities in the regulations.

The above regulation prescribes that an applicant’s eyesight report must be from an ophthalmic optician or registered medical practitioner. A thorough examination by the former is usually recommended, whereas a doctor will conduct a more basic test.
This report must be such that it satisfies the Issuing Authority that the applicant’s eyesight complies with (or can be corrected to comply with) the required standards.

Details of these standards are:

Visual acuity not less than 0.4 (6/15) in one eye or 0.5 (6/12) in both eyes together (with contact lenses where necessary).
The applicant shall not suffer from diplopia or defective binocular vision.
The person shall not suffer from a loss of more than 20 degrees in the temporal part of his field of vision.
A person with the sight of one eye only shall have a visual acuity (with corrected lens if necessary) of at least 0.6 (6/10), an unrestricted field of vision in the eye concerned and monocular (intended for the use of one eye only) vision must have existed for sufficient time to allow adaptation.

Great Britain

However, and quite surprisingly in Great Britain there is no mandatory eyesight test before obtaining a licence and a motorist must only be able to read a vehicle number plate from a fixed distance outdoors in bright daylight of 20.5metres (67ft – about five car lengths) However, the police have the power to require a driver, at any time, to undertake an eyesight test in good daylight.
This eyesight check is normally made at the beginning of the normal driving test. If glasses or contact lenses are worn for this eyesight test they must be worn at all times when driving. The motorist is legally obliged to ensure that his vision remains up to the standard of this eyesight test.
The British number plate test is one of the most basic to be found anywhere, and is not very exacting. It requires only about one – third normal vision in one eye, in order to pass it.

Vision defects

Few accidents, about 1 – 5% of the total, are due to vision defects, even in part. Where they are involved, the situation is usually one in which the hazard is difficult to see, because of poor visibility or lighting, for example.

The major aspect of eyesight, which is important for driving, is the sharpness of vision. This is checked with a distance test involving letters on a wall chart.
Long sight or short sight produce blurred images, and the appropriate spectacles rectify both these conditions. Tunnel vision is caused by some eye defects. The normal field of vision is about 160 degrees but it can be narrowed to 90 degrees or less in those affected by tunnel vision.

The most serious condition is the inherited defect of retinitis pigmentosa, which gradually restricts the field of vision until almost nothing remains. Sometimes, those affected compensate by moving their head from side to side. Those afflicted with tunnel vision are not always aware of the fact. If only one eye is affected the other compensates. As peripheral vision is reduced, those with tunnel vision do not see objects such as pedestrians or vehicles outside the narrow field of vision, and this is a potentially dangerous situation. They will also find great difficulty when driving around corners.

A similar effect to tunnel vision can be produced by wearing spectacles with broad sides. These are totally unsuitable for driving and also pose a problem for instructors checking pupils mirror work.
Associated with tunnel vision is the phenomenon of night blindness. The periphery of the eye is used in night vision, and as this becomes affected in those with tunnel vision, night vision gets very poor indeed.


Good Vision for Safety

Colour blindness? can have serious implications for motorists, particularly if it is not recognized. Men are more than likely to suffer from it than women, and the most common defect is red – green blindness. Many people, however, do not realize they are affected. In many cases, colour-blind people can drive satisfactorily, provided they are aware of the defect.
Traffic signals can usually be interpreted by the position of the lights, and the movement of other traffic usually allows accurate interpretations of other lights. Colour blindness is usually inherited, but it may be acquired by excessive pipe smoking, especially if coupled with high alcohol intake.

Good vision is absolutely essential for safe driving. The eyes are the most important of the driver’s senses, as he receives 80/85% of all his information through them. Many people think that their eyesight is better than it actually is. It may have been good once, but it has probably deteriorated over the years. Surveys of large numbers of motorists have found that over 30% failed some aspect of an eyesight test and were advised to have a detailed eye examination.

Those with only one eye should not drive until they have had time to adjust to using the single eye. Plenty of time should be allowed after any eye operation. Once the adaptation has been achieved, it is normally safe to drive, provided there is a full field of vision in the remaining eye.
Elderly people will probably suffer deterioration in vision. This may not be recognized or admitted, and, if spectacles are worn, they may have become useless. All elderly drivers should have their vision checked regularly.

In conclusion good vision is essential for safe driving but also vitally important is its proper use. Looking and seeing are two different things. One can look but not see. Seeing is when the information received is processed and acted on. Terms like scanning, ranging and all round effective observation are appropriate when teaching but the expression of “loose vision” is quite helpful to keep pupils visually alert to recognize and react to hazards early.

Travelling at 60mph is equivalent to approximately 88 feet per second therefore, if a driver perceives danger .25 of a second before another driver then he has an extra cushion of 22 feet to react and deal with it. Thus the “early vision means early decision” advice is certainly worth noting and acting upon.

?The simplest reliable colour test is the Ishihara Colour plates, designed by a Japanese surgeon. The plates are filled with different coloured spots, some of which, in a contrasting colour, form the shape of a number. Colour-blind people have difficulty distinguishing the number from its surroundings, or may be totally unable to recognize the number.

25thDecember 2004

The Good Driver

No matter how good, how fast, how expensive or how efficient your vehicle, it’s you the driver who determines whether it is a safe means of transport.
As a driver it will help if, instead of looking upon driving as simply a means of getting from A to B, you take pride in your style and approach behind the wheel.

After all, there’s a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction to be gained from showing, not only your skill and ability, but also courtesy and consideration to those around you.
Apart from the reward of, for example, a nod or smile in appreciation, you will have the added satisfaction of making our roads much safer.
The right attitude and behaviour are the key factors to becoming a good driver.

What Makes a Good Driver?

A good driver isn’t necessarily a perfect driver. It’s very doubtful if such a driver exists. Nevertheless, apart from skill and experience which only comes with time, a good driver needs:


Together, these qualities go to make up what is generally known as the driver’s attitude. It is attitude which, in turn, influences driver behaviour.
Developing the right attitude and behaviour will come easier to some drivers than others. Because they are essential to safe driving, it’s important that every driver should make the effort to keep working on them.

Take a pride in your driving and remember that, whether you have been driving for years or have little experience, there’s always something to learn.
It’s a fact that nearly all (90%) road crashes are caused, to some degree by driver error and reducing that risk is the responsibility of every driver.

What is that Responsibility?

To be a responsible driver, you should always be concerned for the safety of yourself, your passengers and all other road users. Be particularly alert and watchful for the most vulnerable, such as children, the elderly and infirmed, cyclists, motorcyclists and people in charge of animals.

Be tolerant and remember that everyone is entitled to use the road. This may well mean making allowances for other road users from time to time. Look and plan your actions well ahead to avoid causing danger or inconvenience. In this way you can avoid the temptation to act hastily – perhaps with dire results. Remember, the responsibility for safe driving rests with you.


To be able to drive safely in today’s traffic conditions you must have 100% concentration. If you let your mind wander, even for a moment, the risk of making a mistake is increased enormously. Remember, mistakes frequently lead to accidents.
If you’re:

Feeling tired or unwell
Thinking about something else
Upset or annoyed
Suffering stress of any kind
‘Red Mist’ (Mainly emergency services)

Try to avoid driving at all, but if you have to, make sure you leave much more time to react.


Let conversation distract you
Make or answer phone calls while driving
Use headphones of any kind
Look at road maps or guides on the move
Try to tune the radio or change compact discs or cassettes on the move

What helps Concentration?

Good vision
Good hearing
Good health
Self discipline
Concentration is the key to good observation and anticipation

Clear Vision

Avoid non essential stickers on the windscreen of your vehicle. They restrict your vision. Don’t hang objects in your vehicle (e.g. dills, dice’s, air fresheners) where they will distract your attention or restrict you view?


Anticipation in driving means planning well ahead and acting promptly to deal with the changes going on around you. It should, with experience, become an almost automatic reaction. It’s the hallmark of a good driver. You need to continuously question the actions of other road users and fit in with what they are doing.
If you expect the unexpected and try to anticipate the actions of others, you’re less likely to be caught out.
Anticipation and good planning are essential in developing defensive driving techniques.

It is said that patience is a virtue and certainly never more so than when you are driving. Sadly, incompetence, bad manners and aggressive behaviour on our roads seem to be commonplace. The secret for the good driver is not to let any situation lead to any conflict.
It is all too easy to get impatient, or lose your temper when other road users do something wrong. If you do, you’re well on the way to an accident. Be prepared to make allowances for someone else’s mistakes and in everyone’s interest try to turn the other cheek.


Drive in a spirit of retaliation or competition
Use aggressive language or gestures
Try to teach someone a lesson even if another road user has caused you an inconvenience.


Keep calm
Show restraint
Use sound judgement

There’s no better lesson than a good example.

Be Patient with ‘L’ Drivers

If the vehicle ahead of you is being driven by a learner:

Don’t drive up close behind
‘Rev’ the engine
Become impatient if the other vehicle is slow to move off
Overtake, only to ‘cut in’ again sharply

Expect learners to make mistakes and allow for these. Remember, not every vehicle showing ‘L’ plates is fitted with dual controls and the person instructing might not be a professional.


This is all part of a driver’s attitude and is closely related to skill, judgement and experience. New drivers will naturally be unsure of themselves, but confidence will grow with experience. A good driver will avoid being over – confident as this only leads to carelessness. Remember, that taking risks causes accidents.
Good habits and thoughtful behaviour can help ensure that both you and your passengers arrive safely.

Don’t Dominate

It helps other drivers if you don’t try to dominate on the road. So don’t:

Cut across the path of other vehicles
Rush through traffic
Change your mind at the last minute
Use aggressive language or gestures

Irritation and Anger

Irritation and anger, for whatever reason, are dangerous. They can cause mistakes, and mistakes leads to accidents. If you’re angry take time to compose yourself before a journey. Don’t jump into your vehicle when you’re in a steaming rage, wait until you have calmed down. The chance of an accident is too great to risk driving under such pressure.
Remember, your actions also affect the actions of other drivers. Lack of consideration can have dangerous consequences and obey the rules set out in the Rules of the Road book.


Be well rested before driving
Make yourself comfortable
Give yourself plenty of time for a journey
Keep your mind on your driving

The better you feel, the easier the journey will be.

Don’t React

If you’re upset by the bad behaviour of another driver, try not to react. If necessary, slow down to cool down, even if your feelings might demand a more aggressive response. Stop and take a short break, because while you’re upset you’re vulnerable.
Your powers of concentration, anticipation and observation are likely to be much more reduced. An accident is more likely to happen.

Finally, be prepared to make allowances for the mistakes of other road users and remember what word you get if you put �d� before anger – danger.

Tom Harrington LL B M Inst. MTD M Inst. CILT M AIRSO 10 November 1995

Drowsy Driving

“Drowsy driving can be considered another form of distracted driving in that drivers experiencing drowsiness do not apply their full attention to the driving task”.

Danger Signals: How Sleepy Are You?

You can’t control your own sleep — ask anyone who’s had insomnia and when you are tired you can fall asleep at any time. If you are about to fall asleep, you will experience some or all of the following:

You have trouble keeping your eyes open and focused
You nod and can’t keep your head up
You daydream or have wandering, disconnected thoughts
You yawn a lot or need to rub your eyes
You find yourself drifting out of your lane or tailgating
You miss road signs or drive past your turning
You feel irritable, restless and impatient
On the motorway, you drift off the road and on to the hard shoulder

If you have even one of these symptoms you could be sleepier than you realize. So get off the road and get some sleep because it’s dangerous and possibly fatal to drive with your eyes closed.


Drowsy driving is a key factor in an estiminated 76,000 – 100,000 crashes occurring each year in the United States, resulting in 1,500 deaths and thousands of injuries. The actual toll may be considerably higher, since drowsiness also contributes to crashes by making drivers less attentive and by slowing their reactions and impairing their judgment.
As many as 1 million crashes are attributed to driver inattention and drowsiness may be a hidden factor in many of these crashes.


Persons that have been shown to be at higher risk for involvement in sleep – related crashes include young people, especially young males,1 persons with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders; drivers who have taken soporific medicines2 and night or rotating shift workers.
Commercial vehicle drivers are also at increased risk for nodding off whilst driving and sleep – related crashes due to such factors as extended driving times, irregular work and sleep patterns, higher frequency of nighttime driving and inadequate sleep.

For anyone who is already drowsy, consumption of alcohol can pose a special risk. Research has shown that alcohol and sleep loss interact synergistically to increase levels of sleepiness.3

Studies conducted using driving simulators show significant decrements in performance when low doses of alcohol are given to sleep-deprived subjects. Circadian factors have also been shown to play a role in drowsy driving crashes.
Our bodies are programmed for sleep during our nighttime sleep period and again 12 hours later and between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. This cyclic pattern of wakefulness has been demonstrated in time of day plots for drowsy driving crashes as well in other arenas where sustained vigilance is important for safety.4

Analysis of crash data can tell us who is most likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash (young persons, males), when and where these crashes are most likely to occur (late night, rural roads, etc.), how they occur (run-off road, rear- end etc.), and the severity of injuries that result. For example, analysis of North Carolina crash data has revealed that 55% of drivers who fell asleep at the wheel and crashed were aged 25 or younger and 75% were males.

Surveys of the general driving population provide evidence of the prevalence of drowsy driving and drowsy driving crashes. In a 1994 survey of licensed drivers in New York State, 55% said that they had driven whilst drowsy in the past year, and 28% said they had fallen asleep at the wheel at once during their driving careers; 3% had fallen asleep at the wheel and crashed and an additional 2% had crashed when driving drowsy.5

In the UK, 29% of the respondents to a mail survey reported that they “had felt close to falling asleep while driving” in the past year6 and in Norway, 1 in 12 drivers reported that they had fallen asleep while driving during the past year, with 4% of these episodes resulting in a crash.7

In a research article entitled “Evaluation of ‘In -Car’ Countermeasures to Sleepiness: Cold Air and Radio”,8 opening the vehicle’s window or listening to the radio/tape player were among the most commonly used “helpful” methods employed by drivers for countering the effects of sleepiness. The article goes on to say there is little scientific evidence to support the efficacy of these putative “in-car” countermeasures to sleepiness.

Authoritative reviews of sleep loss give no guidance to the efficacy of cold air, music, conversation or acceptable noise levels for keeping people awake.
Prudent drivers should stop and take a break when sleepy. As to what to do during this break, many drivers believed that taking a walk is the best countermeasure to sleepiness.

However, laboratory findings of sleepy subjects have shown this to be ineffective, as the alerting effect on even heavy exercise is only transient. In contrast, drinking coffee or a nap- or better still- the two combined, are very effective countermeasures that can be utilized feasibly during a 30- minute break from driving.
During research, listening to the RADIO and COLD AIR to the face from the vehicle’s ventilation system had no significant effect on incidents,9 although there was a trend for the RADIO to reduce incidents, particularly during the first 30 minutes in the simulator, when AIR also had some effect. Compared with other countermeasures such as caffeine and a brief nap, which are more effective, AIR and RADIO are at best only temporary expedients to reduce driver sleepiness, perhaps enabling drivers to find a suitable place to stop, take a break and refresh themselves. While drowsy drivers may believe that these countermeasures (RADIO/AIR) are effective in improving their alertness, this is not reflected in their otherwise deteriorating driving.

From analyses of various accidents in the UK (“Road Audits”) it was found that about 20% of road traffic accidents on motorways and other major trunk roads are caused by sleepiness. Drivers in these sleep related vehicle accidents (SRVAs) are more likely to sustain fatal or serious injuries than in road traffic accidents as a whole.
It is almost impossible for a healthy driver to fall asleep at the wheel without warning.10 Hence most if not all SRVAs are preventable if drivers become fully conversant about recognizing these warning signs – dangers of driving whilst sleepy, driving at vulnerable times of the day, the need to plan one’s journey the use of appropriate countermeasures – all of which can be accomplished through proper education methods.

A driver who allows himself to be overcome by sleep so that a dangerous course of driving results is guilty of dangerous or careless driving, for he should have stopped when he felt sleep overtaking him.11

Finally, remember; if you feel the onset of drowsiness or tiredness do not continue driving because if you snooze you could “lose”.

Tom Harrington LLB M Inst. MTD, M CILT, RoSPA Dip. / Examiner I July 2005

ECO-SAFE Driving

  • Look well ahead and anticipate the flow of traffic
  • Change up gears as soon as possible
  • Steady speed in the highest possible gear
  • Cruising speed – 3000rpm – do not exceed
  • Avoid ‘racing’ starts
  • Use engine braking (compression)
  • Maximum half ‘throttle’ (accelerator)
  • Use ‘selective’ gear changing
  • Tyres at correct air pressure
  • Keep windows closed
  • Use air-conditioning sparingly
  • Keep weights and loads to a minimum
  • Remove roof rack when not in use
  • Keep vehicle properly maintained
  • Switch off engine if stopped for 2 minutes or more

Don’t get lost.20% of mileage driven is when lost

If you apply the above when driving, you will save fuel and make a significant contribution to a cleaner environment.