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26 November 2014

Visual component of UK driving test needs modernising

26 November 2014

Researchers from City University London have found that the visual component of the UK driving test is outdated.

Using the latest technology, the study – which is published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology – shows that the current test used to assess fitness to drive is likely not assessing the right areas of the visual field. The findings might prompt the design of a fairer eye sight test ensuring with greater accuracy that only those safe to drive are present on the roads.

To measure the effects of different visual impairments the researchers developed a novel computer setup. This technology gave people with normal vision ‘simulated’ sight loss in different areas of their vision whilst they tried to detect hazards in movies of driving scenes.

The team found that a loss of the upper part of someone’s visual field had a larger impact on their ability to detect driving hazards than those with a loss in the lower part. Unfortunately the current test used by DSA (Driving Standards Agency) to assess patients with eye disease tends to test more areas in the lower part of the visual field.

David Crabb, lead author on the study and Professor of Statistics and Vision Research at City University London, said:

“The current test used to examine the visual field component for legal fitness to drive in patients with eye disease in the UK is far from ideal. Our study goes some little way to highlight this.

“The visual component of fitness to drive is a very tricky to assess. Yet, at the moment some people are losing or retaining their driving licence on a far from perfect test. We need more research in this area, especially on what parts of vision are needed for safe driving.”

Russell Young, CEO of International Glaucoma Association, which provided a research award to fund this work said:

“These are important early findings which begin to question the suitability of the Esterman visual field test that is currently being used to assess a person’s fitness and safety to drive. People with glaucoma in both eyes are required by the DSA to take this test; they are often worried about what to expect, and stressed about the impact on their quality of life if they have to relinquish their licence.

“The current test developed over 30 years ago, was not designed with driving in mind and, as this new research highlights, it probably doesn’t test the important parts of the visual field well enough. Further investment is needed to fund the design and development of improved tests and technology for assessing the visual field component of fitness to drive.”

“It is vital that people with glaucoma and other visual impairments as well as the driving authorities are confident in the tests and equipment being used.”


Click here for a copy of the study To speak to Professor David Crabb (@crabblab), please contact George Wigmore, Senior Communications Officer at the School of Health Sciences, City University London. E: T: 0207 040 8782 M: 07989 643 112

For more information please contact: Karen Brewer (International Glaucoma Association), 01233 64 81 64. M: 0751 636 9630. email:

For more information about Glaucoma and Driving, see the IGA driving leaflet.

About The International Glaucoma Association

The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is the charity for people with glaucoma, with the mission to raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research related to early diagnosis and treatment, and to provide support to patients and all those who care for them. For more information, please visit

About City University London

City University London is a global University committed to academic excellence, with a focus on business and the professions and an enviable central London location.  It is in the top five per cent of universities in the world according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2013/14 and in the top thirty universities in the UK according to the Times Higher Education Table of Tables 2012. It is ranked in the top 10 in the UK for both graduate-level jobs (The Good University Guide 2014) and in the top 5 for graduate starting salaries (Lloyds Bank).

The University attracts over 17,000 students (35% at postgraduate level) from more than 150 countries and academic staff from over 50 countries.  Its academic range is broadly-based with world leading strengths in business; law; health sciences; engineering; mathematical sciences; informatics; social sciences; and the arts including journalism and music. The University’s history dates back to 1894, with the foundation of the Northampton Institute on what is now the main part of City’s campus. In 1966, City was granted University status by Royal Charter and the Lord Mayor of London was invited to be Chancellor, a unique arrangement that continues today. Professor Paul Curran has been Vice-Chancellor of City University London since 2010.