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Driving with glaucoma

When they’re diagnosed with glaucoma, many people worry about losing their driving licence. In fact, only 12% of people with glaucoma lose their licence. If you’re diagnosed early and follow the advice of your doctor, particularly about using eye drops, the chances are that you’ll never lose your licence due to glaucoma. But there are a few Dos and Don’ts:

You must tell the DVLA about your glaucoma if you have glaucoma in both eyes, or if you’re a commercial driver and you have glaucoma in one eye.

The DVLA and COVID-19: what’s the latest?

The DVLA was enormously impacted by the pandemic and lockdown, however measures have been put in place to minimise disruption. The contract between Specsavers and the DVLA is back up and running again, so drivers’ Visual Fields (VF) can be tested, and capacity has actually increased compared to pre-COVID-19.

If you receive an appointment for a VF test but are shielding and therefore do not want to attend an examination, the DVLA recommend that you call the medical line to let them know. You can either postpone the appointment, withdraw your application, or surrender your licence. Once you finish shielding, you can reapply for your licence. However, you would need to wait for the next available appointment.

person holding steering wheel in car

Any news on driving licence extensions?

Any driving licences which expired between February 2020 and December 2020 were automatically extended for 11 months. As the DVLA are now back up and running, they are not expecting more extensions to any licences. If your licence expires in 2021, you should expect to renew it as normal.

Man driving van

What should I do?

The DVLA emphasised that if you have noticed a change in your medical condition, you should report it. However, they appreciate that this can be difficult with a symptomless condition such as glaucoma, especially if your hospital appointments have been postponed. It could be that your condition has deteriorated, and you have no way of knowing. However, if you are concerned your vision may have worsened during the pandemic, and you may no longer be safe to drive, you should:

  • phone your hospital eye department, and request an appointment;
  • ask if you can have your visual fields tested at an optician – you may be charged for this service. The DVLA will usually agree to consider reliable test results from alternative sources during the pandemic;
  • stop driving if you are genuinely concerned, and wait until you have been seen by an eye care professional and had your visual fields checked.

If you have not noticed a change in your vision, and you have a valid driving licence or you have a renewal application pending, you are fully compliant with the law and don’t need to worry.

Hand on steering wheel

DVLA rules: do I need to tell the DVLA?

This section provides information and support on driving with glaucoma and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) requirements if you have been diagnosed.

 

Glaucoma in one eye

If you have glaucoma in just one eye, you only need to tell the DVLA if you’re a commercial (group two) driver.

Group one drivers with glaucoma in one eye and normal vision in the other don’t need to let the DVLA know.

Group one drivers with glaucoma in one eye and ocular hypertension in the other also don’t need to inform the DVLA.

Glaucoma in both eyes

All drivers who have glaucoma in both eyes must inform the DVLA.

 

Legal responsibilities

You are legally responsible for notifying the DVLA about any medical condition which may affect your ability to drive. If you don’t tell them, you could be fined and your car insurance may  be invalid.

To notify the DVLA, visit their website: https://www.gov.uk/real-condition

Please note, this online form is only suitable to use if you have a single medical condition. If you have more than one condition which may affect your ability to drive, contact the DVLA directly and they will send you the appropriate forms.

Contact details for the DVLA

Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency

Drivers Customer Services

Correspondence Team, DVLA

Swansea SA6 7JL

Contact: glaucomaqueries@dvla.gov.uk
Website: www.dvla.gov.uk

Licence Group One call: 0300 79 06 806

LGV and PVC Group Two call: 0300 79 06 807

But my sight is fine....

Because glaucoma is a gradual condition and the peripheral (off-centre) part of the vision is usually lost first, damage to our vision can be unnoticed. This is partly because one eye can compensate (or fill in) for the other if the damage is to different parts of the visual field. Unfortunately, if the damaged areas of vision in both eyes overlap, the brain fills in the missing parts of the visual image. Because this has happened slowly, our brains adapt and we don’t know which areas we are missing – with serious consequences for driving.

You might think your vision is fine, but the only way to check is by having your visual field tested.

What happens next?

Testing your vision

If you tell the DVLA about your glaucoma, they will normally require you to have a visual field test to measure the extent of any sight loss in one or both eyes. Specsavers have the contract to carry out DVLA vision tests, and you can go to a branch of your choice.  Unlike your normal visual field test, this one is done on both eyes at the same time, and you can wear any spectacles that you normally wear for driving.

More information about driving standards and the testing process is available in our leaflet, which is available to order or download.

 

Appealing a DVLA decision

If the DVLA decide not to re-issue your licence following a test, you can informally appeal their decision. There are strict time limits for this (different in Scotland to the rest of the UK) and the process involves having another visual field test at an optometrist of your choice, and this test being send to the DVLA for assessment. You will have to pay for this. Around 60% of informal appeals are successful (as of 2019).

The formal appeal process is more involved and can be significantly more costly. More information about the appeal process is available in our leaflet.

Driving insurance

You must inform your insurance company that you have glaucoma in each eye, otherwise your insurance may no longer be valid. If the DVLA allow you to keep driving, the insurance company will not refuse to provide cover, and your premium should not be affected.

Glaucoma and driving talk

Listen to Glaucoma UK Professor David Garway-Heath talk about glaucoma and the impact on driving.

Listen to the talk here
Photo of Prof Ted Garway-Heath
play A still from the glaucoma and driving simulation film

Simulation film

Watch our glaucoma and driving simulation film showing how glaucoma can impact on sight whilst driving.

A woman on the phone to the glaucoma helpline

We are here to help

If you have more questions or would like advice about notifying the DVLA, our helpline staff are happy to help.

Call 01233 64 81 70 or email helpline@glaucoma.uk

We’re open 9.30am – 5.00pm on Monday – Tuesday and 9.30am – 2.00pm on Wednesday – Friday

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