When was the last time you had your eyes tested? If it’s not within the last couple of years how can you be sure you’re safe to drive without glasses or contacts? Research shows it’s possible to lose 40% of your sight before you notice any change, and that’s why Brake, the road safety charity, is calling for compulsory eye tests for all drivers.
Don’t turn a blind eye
Every year in the UK, around 2,900 road casualties are attributed to poor driver eyesight. For context, that’s over twice the number of casualties caused by drink drivers. But the findings of a recent study suggest it’s a problem we are all too prepared to turn a blind eye towards. The study carried out jointly by Brake, Specsavers and RSA Insurance Group, shows many drivers are failing to respond to the warning signs of failing vision.
In the last 12 months, almost one-in-five (19%) put off a trip to the opticians when they suspected a problem, and one-in-eight (12%) who know they need glasses to drive, have done so without them. A further 12% of motorists haven’t had their eyes tested in over five years while 4% – that’s still about 1.5million road users – have never had their eyes tested at all.
Driver eyesight tests don’t measure up
As things currently stand, the only measure in place to ensure driver vision meets minimum legal requirements is the number-plate test – where candidates must read a standard UK licence plate (made after September 1, 2001) from a distance of 20 metres. The police also have the power to test a driver’s eyesight at the side of the road if they think there is a problem.
However, neither test is a totally accurate way to measure vision over distance. And neither test considers visual field or contrast sensitivity either – both of which are important for safe driving. This means that once you pass your driving test you may never need to produce further evidence to prove you can see well enough to drive.
It’s estimated up to 5 million of us would fail the number-plate test if we had to take it again!
And because vision problems are so common in the UK – 74% of people wear glasses, contact lenses or have had corrective surgery – Brake is urging the government to change legislation so that new drivers need to present a recent, professional eye test when applying for a provisional licence and then another at least every 10 years thereafter. It’s estimated this would save at least £6.7million of public money every year, not to mention thousands of casualties. And you don’t need 20:20 vision to see that’s a saving worth making.