Can I still drive if I have cataracts?
Last week I told one of my private patients that they had cataracts in both eyes and would benefit from private cataract surgery. They agreed to this but wanted to know whether they could still drive before the operation.
I thought I would share with you what the legal requirements are for driving in case you are in the same position and you have cataracts and want to drive.
Firstly it’s important to note that regulations around driving are set out by the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and that it is not your doctor’s role to enforce the rules but more to advise you as to what you should do in relation to the rules the DVLA set out.
If you have a cataract in one eye, you do not need to tell the DVLA as long as you don’t have any other medical condition affecting your other eye.
If you have a cataract in both eyes, it is your legal duty to tell the DVLA that you have cataracts. They will send you a form, which can also be found online here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/v1-online-confidential-medical-information
Briefly this form will ask you for your personal details, your GP information and details of the eye or optometry clinic you were seen in plus specific questions relating to your eyesight.
One of the questions on the form asks about whether you can read a number plate at 20 metres in good light with glasses or contact lenses if worn. This is a fairly crude measure of your eyesight but one that is still used in driving tests.
There is also a question about whether your eye doctor or optometrist has informed you that your eyesight does not currently meet the minimum standard for driving – this has been set at a measurement of 6/12 with both eyes open – two lines above the 20/20 normal vision line highlighted in the diagram of a vision chart below.
If you have only one eye, you are deemed monocular and can drive if this eye sees 6/12 or better on its own.
If your vision is worse than 6/12, your doctor or optometrist would not recommend you drive.
In circumstances where require a bus, coach or lorry licence, you will have to contact the DVLA if you have cataracts in one or both eyes.
Most of the time, your doctor or optometrist will guide you as to what to safely do and if you don’t meet the vision criteria for driving, you will always have the option to have private cataract surgery to improve your vision – many of my patients are absolutely dependent on driving and are thrilled they can do so again after cataract surgery.