Driving

Having macular degeneration does not automatically mean you have to stop driving. Many people still meet the legal requirements and can continue to drive safely and legally.

However, if your eye specialist says you have any sight condition in both eyes which cannot be corrected with prescription glasses, you have a legal duty to inform your driving licence authority. If you don't, you could be breaking the law and this can result in a fine of up to £1,000.

You should also inform your car insurance provider. This is the case even if you feel your sight is still good.

Assessing your vision

When you contact the licensing authority you will be sent a questionnaire about your vision. You may also be asked for permission for your GP to pass on information about your sight. You may be asked to see an eye specialist for sight tests.

Sight tests

A visual acuity test measures the sharpness of your vision. To be able to drive a private car or motorbike you must have binocular visual acuity of at least 6/12. This means that when you use both eyes together, with glasses or contact lenses if necessary, you can see at 6 metres what a person with normal vision can see at 12 metres.

A visual field test measures your range of vision to the sides. You must have a visual field of at least 120° with at least 50° to left and right. Drivers with macular degeneration, who have damage to their central vision, often pass this test.

The number plate test checks whether you can read a standard car number plate, in good daylight, wearing any prescription spectacles, from 20 metres. You can try it by walking 25 paces away from a parked car - one picked at random, not one you know - and see if you can read the number plate. This is only an indication and does not guarantee your sight meets the required standard for driving.

If you fail the test

Based on the results, the driving authority will decide if it is safe for you to drive.

If you do not meet the required standard you cannot drive on a public road. If you do you will be guilty of a serious offence. You may also invalidate your insurance.

In degenerative conditions, such as macular degeneration, your vision will be rechecked every 12 to 24 months. If you feel your sight has worsened and you're not sure if it's affecting your ability to drive, seek advice from your GP, optician or eye specialist.

Planning ahead

If it seems you may need to stop driving in the future, it is better to take control and plan ahead.

Investigate local public transport. If you are registered sight impaired there may be travel discounts available. And you could spend the money you save by not running and insuring a car on other forms of transport.

If you are in any doubt as to whether your sight is good enough to drive, seek advice from an optician or ophthalmologist.

Driving abroad

Most European countries conform to the same sight regulations. However, some parts of the world may have different requirements. Before travelling abroad, check if you are still eligible to drive.

Group 2 driving

All the previous information relates to driving a private car or motorbike. There are much more stringent requirements for group 2 drivers - those who drive larger or passenger-carrying vehicles. Contact the relevant driving authority for further information.

Mobility scooters

The laws regarding the use of mobility scooters are not currently clearly defined. However, they are under review.

Currently the DVLA strongly advises that users should:

  • have a minimum visual acuity of 6/24
  • be physically able to control the vehicle
  • have third party insurance cover
  • receive basic mobility scooter training.

By law, users must not handle a mobility scooter if taking medication that makes them drowsy, or if under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you are in any doubt, please consult your GP or optician.

Useful links

Department of Transport

Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs rules 

Driving licence authority

Registered sight impaired

Licence authorities

England, Scotland and Wales

DVLA
Tel: 0300 790 6806
Visit gov.uk/contact-the-dvla or write to
Drivers Medical
Enquiries, DVLA,
Swansea, SA99 1TU

Northern Ireland

DVANI
Tel: 0300 200 7861
Email: dva@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

Isle of Man

Vehicle and Driving Licensing Office
Tel: 01624 686 843
Channel Isles

Guernsey

Tel: 01481 243 400

Jersey

Tel: 01534 448 600
Email: dvsinfo@gov.je

Still have questions? Call the Advice and Information Service on 0300 3030 111 or email help@macularsociety.org