Motorists have been urged to test their eyesight amid concerns many behind the wheel do not realise they are too shortsighted to drive.

An awareness campaign by the DVLA in 2018 has resurfaced calling on drivers to test whether they can see a number plate from 20 metres away.

The “number plate test” reflects the legal distance from which all motorists should be able to read a sign.

It follows claims by the Prime Ministers chief aide Dominic Cummings, who said he drove to Barnard Castle in County Durham with his wife and son during the lockdown to test his eyesight.

What is the legal limit for sight?

A DVLA survey indicated less than half of drivers knew that 20 metres was the legal limit for sight.

Five car lengths is said to roughly match the distance and road users are being encouraged to use the measure to test their vision on passing signs.

Anyone concerned about their vision should visit an optician or optometrist for an eye test, the DVLA said.

Motorists should carry out the 'number plate test' before driving

Wyn Parry, the DVLA’s senior doctor, said: “The number plate test is a simple and effective way for people to check their eyesight meets the required standards for driving.

“The easiest and quickest way to do this is to work out what 20 metres looks like at the road side – this is typically about the length of five cars parked next to each other – and then test yourself on whether you can clearly read the number plate.

“It’s an easy check to perform any time of day at the road side and takes just a couple of seconds.

“Having good eyesight is essential for safe driving, so it’s really important for drivers to have regular eye tests.”

Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time, he added, meaning those who have never needed glasses before could eventually require a pair.

Stroud News and Journal: A driver at the steering wheel of a car

Top tips to check before driving for the first time in a while

For those whose cars have been parked up for a few weeks, MoneySavingExpert has published several key points that drivers should check before setting off on essential journeys:

  • Brakes: If your handbrake/parking brake hasn't been released since you last drove, it may stay locked when you first release it. Drive off gently and it should free itself, though you might hear a loud clunk from one of the wheels. Apply the brakes when you first drive off too – they may sound noisy if rust has built up on the discs, but this should clear after you use them a few times.
  • Fluids: Before starting the engine, check all fluid levels, including brake fluid, coolant, engine oil, power-steering fluid and screenwash.  
  • MOT: If your MOT expired on or after Monday, March 30, you DON'T have to get your car tested for six months from the expiry date due to an extension granted because of the pandemic. If it expired before Monday, March 30, you'll need to book an MOT as usual and shouldn't drive until you're taking your car for the test. Although test centres and garages have been allowed to stay open so you can do this, the Government says that at present you should only get your MOT done if you need your car to be able to shop for bare necessities, for medical reasons or for work (if you can't work from home). 
  • Tyres: If you've not been keeping them inflated to the correct pressure while you've been off the road, check the pressure and inflate accordingly before you head out.
  • Vehicle tax: Check your car is taxed or you could face a fine of up to £1,000. If you have declared it as being off the road by getting a Sorn (statutory off-road notification), you will need to renew your vehicle tax. For full details, see paying vehicle tax.
  • Check nothing's living under the bonnet: Before starting your car after a lay-up, the AA says you should pop the bonnet and make sure that nothing has nested in your engine and/or chewed through any pipes or hoses.