What is the Legal Eyesight Requirement for Driving?

In Australia, the legal eyesight requirement for driving is 6/12. This means that you must be able to see clearly at a distance of 6 metres what a person with normal vision can see at 12 metres. If you are unable to meet this requirement, you will not be able to hold a driver’s licence in Australia. But what does this mean? How do the authorities check your vision?

Importance of Vision

It might sound obvious, but being able to see clearly is crucial when driving. You need to be able to see other vehicles, pedestrians and potential hazards on the road. Good vision also helps you to judge speed and distance, which is important when overtaking or turning.

Two types of vision are important when driving:

  • Visual acuity – this is how clearly you can see. It’s measured by the smallest letters on an eye chart that you can read from a certain distance.
  • Peripheral vision – this is how much side vision you have. It’s important for being able to see other vehicles in your blind spot. The better your peripheral vision, the safer you are when driving.

The Legal Requirements

The National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) in Australia recommend that all drivers have a visual acuity of at least 6/12 with both eyes open. This means being able to read letters from 6 metres away that most people can read from 12 metres away.

However, the Australian legal eyesight requirement for driving is more relaxed than this. You only need to have a visual acuity of at least 6/12 in one eye, with or without corrective lenses, to be able to drive. If somebody only has one eye, for instance, they may still be able to drive provided their remaining eye meets this legal requirement.

If your vision is below this level, you can still apply for a driver’s licence if you can prove to the licensing authorities that you can drive safely despite your reduced vision. There are several ways to do this, which may include completing an eyesight test administered by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist, and/or providing a ‘letter of fitness to drive’ from an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

How is eyesight tested during a driving test? Generally, during a driving test, the testing officer will ask you to read a number plate from a certain distance. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you must wear them for the test.

What if my eyesight changes after I get my licence? If your vision deteriorates to the point where you no longer meet the required standard, you must notify the licensing authority. If you’re found driving without the required level of vision, you may be fined and/or have your licence suspended.

Getting Your Eyes Tested

If you’re worried about your vision, the best thing to do is book an eye test with your optometrist or ophthalmologist. They’ll be able to tell you if your vision meets the legal requirements for driving, and can give you advice on how to improve your vision if it doesn’t.

There’s no set frequency for how often you should get your eyes tested, but it’s generally a good idea to get them checked every one to two years. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you should have your eyes tested more frequently to make sure your vision is still within the legal limits.

If you’re over 70, you’ll need to have your eyes tested every year when you renew your driver’s licence. Why not get your eyes tested today for peace of mind?

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