Driver advice: eyesight and health

SharpthumbDrivers can pledge to – get their eyes tested at least every two years, or straight away if they notice a problem, and wear glasses or lenses at the wheel if they need them. They can pledge to never drive on medication that affects driving.

Everyone can pledge to – look out for friends and loved ones by ensuring they only drive if they're fit for it.


If you drive, it's probably the most complex and dangerous task that you'll do on a regular basis, so it is vital your eyesight and general health is up to the task. Poor vision, ill health, some medications or stress can significantly affect your ability to drive safely, putting lives at risk.

Sharpen up: driver eyesight

Eyesight glassesYour eyesight can deteriorate significantly without you realising it - it's possible to lose 40% of your vision before noticing [1]. That's why it's vital for drivers to get their eyes tested with an optometrist at least every two years, or straight away if you think there might be a problem.

Your eyesight is checked by a driver licensing agent when you apply for a licence, a new licence class or a new licence endorsement, and each time you renew your licence. The test checks for blurry or 'lazy eyes' and poor side vision. However, the check isn't a full examination and it should never be used as a substitute for a professional test.

If you need glasses or lenses, don't drive without them. In NZ, doing so is punishable by a fine of $400. If you are prone to forget, keep a spare pair of glasses in your vehicle just in case.

Your health

It is your responsibility to declare any condition that could impair your driving. You have to confirm that you are medically fit each time you apply for, renew or replace your driver licence. The medical declaration asks you to declare any conditions that might affect your ability to drive safely and you may need to also produce a medical or dental certificate. If you suspect you have developed a condition, seek medical advice immediately.
Check the NZ Transport Agency's guidance on health conditions and driving for advice.

Brake advises that older drivers get at least annual health checks, and ask the doctor's advice on their fitness to drive.

Medication

NotADrop PillsIt is an offence to drive, or attempt to drive, while unfit through medication. If you are taking medication, check the label or information leaflet to see if it could affect your driving. If the label warns that your driving could be affected, or it could make you drowsy, or not to drive if you feel drowsy, err on the side of caution and don't drive: it is impossible to accurately gauge yourself if you're impaired. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure.

Never drive if the label or a health professional recommends that you don't, or says you could be affected, or if you feel drowsy or slow.

If your medication affects your driving, stop driving, not your medication - make arrangements for alternative transport, or if you need to drive seek an alternative medication. In some cases, stopping your medication could pose additional risks, including while driving.

  • Pledge to never drive if poor eyesight or ill health may affect your driving.
  • Read our driver advice on other topics.

[1] World Glaucoma Day, International Glaucoma Association and Royal National Institute for the Blind, 2009

Last updated January 2016

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