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What the driving test eyesight check might be like in the future

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Driving instructors, Driving test, Learning to drive, Ready to Pass?

We are consulting on a number of proposals to encourage learner drivers to be better prepared to take their driving test.

One of those is changing the law so that we can carry out driving test eyesight checks in any level of light, not just good daylight.

In this blog post I’ll explain how you and your pupils could benefit from these changes and give an update on my DVSA role.

Increasing test availability

We know you and your pupils are frustrated by the current long waiting times for a driving test.

Unfortunately, we are restricted on when we can carry out tests - the law says we can only test someone’s eyesight as part of the driving test in good daylight.

This means we are unable to carry out tests before sunrise or after sunset and we sometimes have to cancel tests at short notice due to poor light caused by the weather.

The proposed change would allow us to carry out tests at any time and not just rely on candidates having to read from a car number plate.

We want to use different methods to test someone’s eyesight, such as a tablet, and we are working with the Secretary of State for Transport’s Honorary Medical Advisory Panel on Driving and Visual Disorders to assess and review this new approach.

Better preparing your pupils for safer driving for life

The changes would allow us greater flexibility to offer tests in lower light conditions.

This will help encourage learner drivers to practise driving more at night before their test.

We recognise night-time driving lessons are an important part of the training that you offer to your pupils.

However, 1 in 4 newly qualified drivers said they wished they had spent more time driving in the dark during their lessons in a recent survey.

More worryingly, 1 in 10 new drivers said they had actively avoided driving in the dark since passing their test.

This means around 47,000 drivers who passed their test in the last year might not be regularly driving at night.

This is a real concern, especially when around a third of all road accidents involve young drivers at night.

It’s important that the driving test reflects real-life driving conditions, and we believe this should include driving in all types of light.

Some of the skills required for driving in the dark are different from those needed for driving in daylight.

Things like spotting hazards in reduced visibility and overtaking at night are skills that your pupils should be practising with a professional, before doing it independently.

All drivers must be able to drive safely in the dark, so this proposal will better prepare your pupils for this important driving skill.

Car driving test candidate taking the eyesight check

You still have time to have your say

So far we’ve received over 9,900 responses to our consultation on improving driving test availability and processes.

We hope you can support this proposal in our consultation, which proposes new measures to encourage your pupils to be better prepared for their driving test.

We believe these measures will help reduce the driving test waiting time and give us greater flexibility to provide more tests.

Time is running out to give your views. The consultation will end on 8 March at 11:59pm.

We understand how busy you are now, but we really value your views and hope you’ll take the time to respond. Also, please feel free to share this consultation with your friends and family.

You can read the consultation document and have your say on the GOV.UK consultation pages.

And finally

After 14 years at DVSA, Mark Magee has now retired and has handed over the DVSA Head of Driver Policy baton to me.

I previously worked for a number of years at DVLA where I led on projects such as the abolition of the tax disc, introducing a Direct Debit scheme for vehicle tax, digitising many of the vehicle paper-based services, improving accuracy of data and launching a new trailer registration scheme to help hauliers travel easily throughout Europe.

Before Mark left, he and I were able to have a good hand over of responsibilities and he shared how his experiences of attending and presenting at ADI events where he met and spoke to a lot of you. He said working with you had been a real pleasure and I’m really looking forward to being able to do the same.

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  1. Comment by Brian A Thomson posted on

    The eyesight and "tell me" part should be "signed off" by an approved driving instructor and that could include private car users preparing for test leaving more time for driving assessment by the examiner, the "bonnet" questions really only pertain to the car on the day so are quite time consuming for little benefit. Like the Emergency stop it could be worded as part of the test application that the student "may" be asked these items.

    • Replies to Brian A Thomson>

      Comment by Sully posted on

      I agree it's pointless doing the eyesight test at the start of an driving test.

  2. Comment by Joe Collins posted on

    You guys are really messing everything up. Firstly taking out TITR and Reverse Round A Corner for Pull up on the Right, utter bloody madness. Now these changes to the Highway Code, utter bloody madness again. Someone needs to be sacked and all of the above reversed. Cyclists and pedestrians are going to get killed and it's on their hands. And as for Smart Motorways, well don't get me started on that. There has to be a purge at the highest level and get us back to safe roads and motorways.

  3. Comment by Jeremy Edwards posted on

    The DVSA is just becoming a complete joke, try putting someone with actual experience of the job involved in charge instead of some desk monkey as it's clear that it's someone looking at statistics is making these changes instead of someone who lives in the real world, but then when did the Dvsa ever listen to people who actually so the job they do consultations and do what they want despite what people say, and this for one will make no difference at all to tests, maybe you should publish the figures on how many tests have actually been cancelled due to lack of light for the eye test and saying that tests will be able to be conducted before and after sunrise is a joke because your examiners won't work at them times

  4. Comment by Phil Ward posted on

    Why not purchase a light box for each test centre and this could be used to carry out the eye test. Light boxes like these have been used in the printing industries for decades and are not expensive. They can be adjusted for varying light conditions. This would be the most simplistic and cheapest way to solve the issue you currently have with lack of tests.

  5. Comment by L.G.Lamb posted on

    All pupils should be taught at night for at lest 20% of the learning period!

    • Replies to L.G.Lamb>

      Comment by Brian Thomson posted on

      I try and get every student out for a "dark drive" using mostly back roads that have no white lines, in the middle of the country it can be really dark so it's only car lights available. The issue I have this year is that the condition of the roads have gone seriously downhill probably because of the services being off or reduced, I have done my "dark" route a couple of times during the day to check for dangerous potholes and it is just too risky to blow a tyre in the middle on nowhere. I've alerted the local council and they are getting there with some of the repairs so here's hoping I get out before it starts getting dark at eleven.

  6. Comment by Rod Came ADI 68677 posted on

    Book now for the 21.20 test on the 21st June, sunset is 21.21 so your client will be able to demonstrate their overtaking in the dark abilities to the examiner. Won't that be fun.

    How out of touch with reality is the DVSA? How often does a learner driver get the opportunity to overtake another moving motor vehicle? Almost never because the other vehicle is usually up to or above the speed limit. Dual carriageways don't count, it is on single carriageways that sound judgement is required and the situations do not arise where this manoeuvre can be practised.

    In my experience practical driving tests are not carried out in poor visibility, in fact they are abandoned when visibility deteriorates, so the suggestion that they should start in such conditions stretches my imagination beyond belief.

  7. Comment by Tim Clayton posted on

    This all good stuff, imo, and timely. But who is the “me” succeeding Mr Magee, please? The blog post hasn’t any personal attribution.

    • Replies to Tim Clayton>

      Comment by Peter (DVSA) posted on

      It is Lianne Parkinson - her name and link to her biog is at the top of the page

  8. Comment by Colin Hughes posted on

    I know a number of "experienced" drivers/ riders who say that night driving in and around Towns and Cities is becoming more difficult due to the level and quality of street lighting and the condition and cleanliness of street furniture, which when added together frequently make it virtually impossible to define traffic islands and kerb-lines for example. Reflections from shop lights and illuminated attractions also affect the light levels,
    Motorways do not cause any issues became they are either well lit or not, and where not the road markings and cat's eyes are well maintained and give good and clear definition.
    If a screen is used to test for night vision, what standard will be set? A well lit high street or a less bright road on a housing estate? Both of which present different driving challenges and possible issues.

  9. Comment by Tim Clayton posted on

    Ah, is it “Lianne Parkinson”, as in the path at the head of the text?

  10. Comment by steve griffiths posted on

    would this mean the introduction of driving test later into the evening?

    • Replies to steve griffiths>

      Comment by Peter (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Steve,

      The proposed change would give us the flexibility to carry out tests at any time.

  11. Comment by Paul Bartlett posted on

    I strongly agree that all new drivers do need good eye sight especially when driving in the dark for the first time, all instructors should encourage learner drivers to have darkness driving lessons. I welcome you to your new role and hope you enjoy your new post and continue to hear from you in the future.

  12. Comment by Ruth Wallace posted on

    Hi Lianne, congratulations for your new position. PLEASE, can you bring your influence to bear on digitalising the Provisional LGV licence Application Forms.
    We're still forced to use old D2 & D4 forms (and the D2 forms are creaking with age, i.e. they ask still ask people to Opt-In to Organ Donation, and still carry 'C' provisional request box (when since Nov'21 a box for C and another box for CE is more relevant).
    Instead of updating the forms, surely, it's time to complete the development On-Line applications!!!

    • Replies to Ruth Wallace>

      Comment by Peter (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Ruth,

      Thank you for your interest. We will pass on your feedback to our driver licensing colleagues at DVLA to consider as part of their continuous improvement programme.

  13. Comment by Nigel Slater posted on

    What will you do in the summer months, will you expect ADIs to work late in the evening? Think you'll find a lot of ADIs may not be so keen.

  14. Comment by Daniel Wolf posted on

    "Things like spotting hazards in reduced visibility and overtaking at night are skills that your pupils should be practising with a professional, before doing it independently."
    Can you please justify the above statement? On the one hand you state a professional (ADI/PDI presumably) should be practising with a pupil, yet you allow candidates to take their driving test who have received no professional tuition i.e. the school of mum and dad.

  15. Comment by TREVOR David Thomas posted on

    Very interesting

  16. Comment by Christopher Duggan posted on

    Anything that helps clear the backlog, great idea.

  17. Comment by Peter Cary posted on

    WHY OH WHY can the DVSA not do the logical thing and accept an opticians report as to the candidates eyesight quality?

    In EXACTLY the same way they do for VOCATIONAL tests….

    • Replies to Peter Cary>

      Comment by Sully posted on

      I agree. why go through all the hassle?

  18. Comment by Graham posted on

    When a learner driver becomes more competent then they shd have to have some lessons driving in the dark.i also think as part of the test after completing it successfully they shd have to complete an additional assessment on how to get on and off a motorway in and how to drive when on it.once deemed competent then they shd get a licence

  19. Comment by Jon Wayte posted on

    The current method of checking eyesight has always seemed rather haphazard to me. Number plates on cars at only approximate regulation distances away are often selected and in all sorts of light and weather conditions. Surely a check by a suitably qualified optician, within a specified time period, is a far more reliable and accurate assessment than anything that can be replicated by instructors or at test centres? That should be the standard we adopt.

  20. Comment by Nick Heath posted on

    This is good news

    One of my frustrations as an ADI is that we are always being asked to try and better prepare our pupils for test, but the DVSA never seems to look at it's own role in influencing a driver's performance on the day. The part played by the examiner is significant

    We have a unique situation at the moment. Many of the people taking tests are quite experienced. They drive daily with parents and have had lessons now for several years whilst being unable to take tests due to circumstances beyond their control. I can honestly say that my own pupils in this position could borrow my car at any time of the day if they were my own kids without any concerns whatsoever. Their parents often feel the same and those young people do all of the family driving (I've even heard of some driving the family across the country on holiday) regardless of destination, time of day, numbers of passengers or anything like that

    For these people, the driving test should be a formality because they've been taught that it's just about safe driving in accordance with the Highway Code and that's what they're doing daily and have been doing for months, maybe even years. It isn't proving quite so easy though (the failures are usually for good reason but often things that they do competently day in day out). In these circumstances, I think that it's fair to take an honest look at the question as to why your customers are so intimidated by the test itself and the driving examiners

    Whilst it might be a hard pill to swallow, hearing stories of friends having tests cancelled because of bad light, even though everyone else was happy to drive in those conditions (including their driving instructor and the examiner who probably didn't walk to work that day) is one of the things that gives the DVSA this bad reputation. As when we're teaching them, they might smile and nod when they're in front of you listening to it, but does that reflect their true feelings about the situation? Are they walking away accepting and respecting those decisions or the explanations for them?

    Over the years, I've also seen tests cancelled controversially because it's cold. Ice is the explanation given. On one typical such occasion, it was a nice, dry, pleasantly warm day of maybe 9 or 10degs C and 230pm in the afternoon and the test was cancelled due to the risk of ice in the poor weather. This is the same situation as the bad light one - the driving lesson went ahead, the other drivers are happy to drive, the examiner who is now locking up and going home (even though the rather upset pupil is still in the car park) is getting into a car... but the it's not safe to drive because of ice that nobody can see and shouldn't even exist in 10deg!

    We've put so much effort into improving the test itself in recent years, changing the manoeuvres and introducing independent driving and sat navs etc. It makes real sense to try now to reduce the number of last minute cancellations in controversial circumstances. It's definitely a move in the right direction. I'd also like to suggest a small change to the script used at the beginning of the test too - simply saying "I know you're likely to be nervous, but I'm only here to check that you know the rules in the Highway Code and can judge what to do in different traffic situations safely so try to relax as much as you can and then you'll show me your best work" and wearing a pleasant smile would go a long way to improving your public image whilst not reducing your professional standing at all

    • Replies to Nick Heath>

      Comment by Tim Clayton posted on

      I do agree that, AT FIRST CONTACT, a few carefully chosen words and eye contact with smile, would help pass-rates. (Just as when cold-selling, to a stranger: be smiling as you call the candidate’s name so, when they look up, they involuntarily feel a positive emotional reaction).

  21. Comment by Keith arksey posted on

    Any improvement in the current, woefully inadequate eyesight testing for drivers,.... ie on day of test only, is to be welcomed. Considering how important is is for drivers to gave good eyesight I fail to understand why there’s no requirement for drivers to eyesight test every few years.. as a minimum, at licence renewal so every ten years then more regularly beyond 70. Everyone should have eyesight test every view years, so no hardship or problem. Apart from complacency and galloping inertia on part of government ..

  22. Comment by Sully posted on

    I think eyesight test you should be scrapped and use optical or driving instructor test and use that as a eyesight test, doing it at the start of test is no use

  23. Comment by Victor George posted on

    Has it really as come to a point where Road Safety is to be compromised for productivity and profit alone.
    Once the Driving Standards Agency had the values of safe driving for life as the mission of qualified Road Safety Professionals. There now appears to be an unqualified blinkered corporation circus performing for the DFT.
    Where the Safety of Stakeholders and the Public are likely to be compromised there should be a cautious approach to making change for the sake of change, not driven by politics or corporate bonuses.
    Fact there is a shortage of Driving Examiners ask why ?
    Fact there is a shortage of Driving Instructors ask why ?
    Putting the corporate cart ahead of the working horse is not a solution.

  24. Comment by Keith Gee posted on

    Just how big an issue is sub-standard eyesight of new drivers? Answer: statistically it is a very very small issue. So the only reason for enhancing the eye test, as suggested by the blog, is to widen the range of day time that a candidate can be tested. If DVSA examiners will work outside the standard 'office day', then providing tests during poorer light conditions should not be an issue. Driving instructors generally have no issues with providing evening time tuition; some will decline of course.

    It should be very easy for the test examiner to apply a situation appropriate eye sight test just as quickly as is done currently.

    Some commentators have suggested getting opticians to certify the eyesight of unqualified new drivers. This would over complicate the issue and be a big mistake given the transition that the optician profession is going through. Some opticians are pushing hard for their business model to change to one of 100% private practice, seeing the dental move from NHS to private practice as a positive income enhancing change. Whilst not yet in the public domain, governments have discreetly looked at ways in which eye testing can be dropped from NHS services.

  25. Comment by Thomas D. Morales posted on

    The driving test eyesight check might be like in the future. It is said that you will need to pass an eye exam in order to get your driver's license starting from 2020. There are a lot of changes in technology and it is important that everyone behind the wheel meets new standards. The tests will be given by certified technicians and they can also refuse to issue licenses to people who do not meet the new criteria. Stay tuned for more information on this change!

  26. Comment by Simon posted on

    Make the eyesight test part of the theory? Design a picture (number plate) that can be standardised on the computer screen. You could also create different light and visibility situations.

  27. Comment by Dr. Suresh Borole posted on

    Very Nice Blog was very well explained

  28. Comment by Keith Hepburn posted on

    An examiner can only conduct so many tests in a day.

    Therefore unless you are planning to increase the number of examiners it will make little or no change to the current waiting list and the situation you find yourself in.

    Would it not be easier to extend the working week to include testing on Saturdays and Sundays.

    The problem with working outside of hours, is the traffic and most test centres are placed in areas where this is far more problematic than it is between 8:30-4:30pm weekdays.

  29. Comment by Spencer posted on

    I think checking the eyesight in different levels of light will be crucial and it will also ensure the safety of driver and others as well. You indeed shared something value and I really appreciate it.

    Thanks and Regards

    Spencer at