Vision and Driving

Even a small loss of vision can affect your driving. Find out how to stay safe on the road.

Good vision is essential for safe driving, and even small changes can affect your ability to:

  • read road signs
  • see hazards on the road like pedestrians, objects or other vehicles
  • identify coloured signals like traffic lights
  • judge gaps between moving vehicles or the distance of oncoming traffic 

In turn, these impacts can affect your ability to safely change lanes or merge into traffic, negotiate intersections and respond in a timely way to the road and surrounding environment.

Common changes to your vision

Many people experience changes in their vision as they get older. This might include: 

  • difficulty seeing at night, including difficulty recovering quickly from the glare of oncoming lights
  • reduced visual acuity (sharpness of your vision) 
  • loss of peripheral vision (your ability to see objects out of the corner of your eye) 
  • reduced depth perception (knowing how far away objects are)
  • reduced ability to differentiate colours.

You may also experience a visual impairment due to eye disease or other medical conditions, including:

  • Glaucoma (a condition affecting the optic nerve)
  • Macular degeneration (a condition affecting the retina)
  • Cataracts (a condition causing clouding of the lens of the eye)
  • Vision changes after stroke
  • Diabetic retinopathy 

These impairments are explained in the fact sheets:

The Department of Transport and VicRoads wishes to acknowledge and thank the following organisations for their contribution towards development of one or more of these fact sheets:The Vision Initiative; Macular Disease Foundation Australia; Optometry Victoria South Australia; Diabetes Victoria.

The importance of regular eye checks

Changes to your vision can happen slowly or rapidly, so it’s important to have your eyes tested at least every two years (yearly for people over 65), or more frequently if recommended by your doctor or eye health professional.

Vision impairment - What you need to do

If you notice any changes to your vision, it’s important to visit your doctor, optometrist or ophthalmologist straight away. You may need a visual aid (e.g. glasses, adjustments to your lenses etc.) to make sure you stay safe on the road. You may also need to make changes to your driving.

If you develop a vision impairment, your eye health professional will be able to explain whether your vision meets the Australian standards for safe driving (refer to the table below or click the link). 

They will also advise you about the longer term impact of your eye condition and what you need to do to keep driving for as long as possible. They can also explain whether you may need to stop driving in the future. This will give you time to plan for retirement from driving. See the fact sheet - Getting around without a car [PDF 85 Kb] 

All Victorian drivers are required by law to notify VicRoads if they have a long-term, chronic health condition or disability that could affect their ability to drive safely. This includes eye conditions such as myopia, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and loss of vision in one eye. It also includes medical conditions that may affect vision such as diabetes and stroke.

Notifying VicRoads

If you have been advised by your doctor or eye health professional that you have a visual impairment or other medical condition that could affect your driving safety, you must  notify VicRoads. There could be serious consequences in not reporting a medical condition - Refer to Fitness to drive FAQs .

Conditional licences

Depending on your vision, VicRoads may add a condition to your licence (e.g. you must wear corrective lenses when driving or you may be only able to drive in daylight hours) to allow you to keep driving. You may also need to have your eyesight assessed periodically to ensure your vision continues to meet the driving standards. 

See below for more information about the vision standards, including how they are applied to private and commercial vehicle drivers. 

Where to get more information and support

Glaucoma Australia
Website: www.glaucoma.org.au 
Email: [email protected]
Call: 1800 500 880

Macular Disease Foundation Australia
Website: www.mdfoundation.com.au
Email: [email protected]
Call: 1800 111 709

Vision2020 Australia
https://www.vision2020australia.org.au/

Vision Initiative
www.visioninitiative.org.au  

Good Vision For Life 
https://goodvisionforlife.com.au/

Diabetes Australia
https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/
Call: 1800 637 700

Travellers Aid 
https://www.travellersaid.org.au/

Vision Australia
https://visionaustralia.org/
Call: 1300 847466

 

Drivers need to meet certain eyesight requirements to hold a driver licence, which are outlined in the national standards, Assessing Fitness to Drive (Austroads).  The main requirements relate to visual acuity (sharpness of vision) and visual fields (what you see to the front and to the sides). These requirements are outlined in the table below. As shown in the table, there are different requirements for operating different vehicles. 

The standards also include specific requirements for visual impairments such as diplopia (double vision) which may result from a number of conditions.

Poor night vision is a common visual impairment, often associated with cataracts, and common as people age. There is not a specific standard for night vision, however, night driving may be restricted as part of a conditional licence.

For progressive conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular disease, regular review may be a requirement for a conditional licence.

Depending on your eyesight condition, your eye health professional will assess your eyesight and advise whether you meet the requirements and how your eyesight condition should be managed. 

 
Visual condition Car, motorcycle and boat licence Heavy truck and bus licence
Acuity (clarity of vision)* The minimum requirement for holding a private drivers licence is visual acuity of 6/12 or better (using both eyes). Aided or unaided vision is acceptable. Corrected (with glasses or contact lenses) or uncorrected visual acuity must be better than 6/9 in the best eye and at least 6/18 in the worst eye.
Cataracts Must meet all visual criteria. Two yearly review required. Must meet all visual criteria. Two yearly review required.
Diplopia Review by ophthalmologist or optometrist is required. Review by ophthalmologist or optometrist is required.
Glaucoma May drive if visual acuity and visual field standards are met. May be subject to annual review of vision and visual fields. May drive if visual acuity and visual field standards are met. May be subject to annual review of vision and visual fields.
Loss of vision in one eye Should not drive for three months after losing vision in one eye. May then drive if vision in good eye meets visual acuity standards. Review by ophthalmologist or optometrist is required.
Nystagmus Review by ophthalmologist or optometrist is required. Review by ophthalmologist or optometrist is required.
Poor night vision A conditional licence may be issued for daylight driving. A conditional licence may be issued for daylight driving.

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