We as a nation are getting older; in 1970, the average life expectancy was 71.92 years, in 2015, that jumped to 81.60 years of age, and it still rises. This, of course, has a knock-on effect – the number of drivers aged over 90 topped 100,000 in 2017, and over 5 million British drivers are aged 70 or above.
We’ve even seen a 15% spike in ‘Centenarian’ motoring – currently, there are 265 Brits over 100 that still hold a valid UK driving licence.
And yet, the only time that an official eye test is undertaken for driving, is at the time of the test – reading a number plate at 20 metres. Simple maths tells us that there could be a reasonable number of drivers that had never done that either, as the test was only introduced in 1937.
Better regulation of testing
The road safety organisation, GEM Motoring Assist, are calling for compulsory eyesight testing every ten years, although they have said that in an ideal world, that would be every two years, particularly for those aged forty and over.
At first glance (no pun intended), it would seem another road safety campaign that’s been designed to grab headlines and column inches, but dig a little deeper into the statistics, and there seems to be a valid defence behind the call.
According to figures released by the DVLA, nearly 50,000 drivers had their driving licence refused or withdrawn due to vision problems between 2012/16, and nearly 3,000 fatal or serious injury collisions each year occur as a result of poor eyesight. A 2014 study by the road safety charity Brake, revealed that nearly 1.5 million motorists have never had their eyes tested.
The campaign has been started as a result of an accident involving a pensioner and a three-year-old girl, who was tragically killed as she waited at a pelican crossing with her mother – the driver admitted to not being able to see the child, red light, or pelican crossing; he’d been advised to stop driving by an optician.
There may be a minority of motorists that see this as a potential stealth tax, perhaps more so when GEM road safety officer Neil Worth states: “The most practical measure would be a sight test every ten years, along with licence renewal which would make it practical and enforceable”, but current photocard licences can be renewed from as little as £14, and with eye tests available from £10 (currently), £2.40 per year doesn’t sound so bad.
Perhaps if the campaign took off, insurance companies would be willing to offer reduced premiums to those that prove their vision, after all, there should be a significant reduction in serious or fatal accidents each year, leading to safer roads and reduced claims.
There is further benefit to drivers also; eye tests can help detect numerous undiagnosed conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, high cholesterol and even multiple sclerosis – the eyes are an excellent indicator of health when examined correctly.
If you’re a spectacle or contact lens wearer, there’s a high chance that you already have an understanding of your vision capability, but for those of you that have never taken an eye test, it’s worth knowing that you can lose up to 40% of your visual acuity without even realising that there is a problem.
Many high street opticians offer free eye testing for qualifying persons, but should you have to pay, the typical price is anywhere between £10 – £20 for a full examination, so perhaps it’s worth considering as a precautionary measure, especially for those aged forty plus, or on long-term medication. You may gain a better understanding of your own vision, or even health. A simple test is to stand 20 metres from a car and see if you can read the number plate – if you can’t, it’s time to book that eye test or stop driving.
It’s also worth knowing that the police are able to revoke a driver’s licence on the spot if the driver fails a basic roadside sight test, and that you could be liable to prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000 if you fail to inform the DVLA about a medical condition that could affect your driving.
If you think that compulsory eye tests for British motorists could help with road safety, then you can sign the ‘Driving Blind’ petition here.
Do you think that compulsory eye tests could help with road safety? Should drivers have a more rigorous sight test when applying for their licence? Have you ever had a ‘moment’ that could be down to not being able to see clearly? Let us know.
Most definately, but I would suggest more regularly than 10 years. Since eye tests are free every two years and the benifits of picking up underlying health problems are well documented, perhaps compulsion to have your eye test sent to DVLA every 4-5 years would not be unreasonable and would yeald health benifits to the general populus as well as making the roads safer.
Eye tests aren’t free where I live (England) unless you have a qualifying condition.
An eye test every two years is free for everyone over the age of 60
All eye tests are free in Scotland
What about under 60? Eyesight deteriorates from about 40 so I have been told
My eyesight started deteriorating in my early twenties. I think eyesight tests should be something that everyone has throughout their lives.
I’ve had free eye tests every year since the age of 40 as I am at high risk of developing glaucoma as my father had it.
This is something I’ve been saying for many years. Having been a professional driver for more years than I care to remember, I’ve seen the results of people with poor eyesight driving and causing accidents, deaths, serious injuries, etc.
It gets stupid when the police hold occasional spot checks and ask drivers to read a number plate at the required distance, and a number of drivers can’t read it, then they have taken out a pair of specs, put them on, read the number plate, then put their specs away again. As they obviously can’t read the number plate without glasses, the police ask them why they don’t wear their glasses for driving, the usual response is “I don’t like wearing them” or “I don’t feel comfortable with them on” or “Glasses leave a mark on each side of my nose when I wear them.”
Stupid inconsiderate idiots!
They are breaking the law – 12 points for not wearing prescribed glasses.
They should be fined on the spot for remarks like that, they clearly can’t see to drive safely!
I think probably one test after 10 years, if no eye test before and one at 70 when licence has to be renewed.
As you have to renew your driving licence every three years over the age of seventy, would it not make sense to include an eye examinination cert with that renewal?
Everyone should have their eyes tested every two years and if you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, then annually; why can a statement not be issued by the opthalmist stating suitability to drive, with or without glasses, this should then be sent to DVLA, drivers responsibility. No need for specialist DVLA tests required as the price would be inflated. It makes sense to be sure that you can see properly to drive.
Just a small revision to the document given to you after your eye test is al that is required.
I think it should be every 5 years after 50. I have a yearly eye test because I wear glasses and have Sjogrens which is partly dry eye.
I had cataracts but was assured my eyes still passed the driving requirements. I had eye test 6 months after previous one as I felt my sight was getting worse. Still assured it was still legal for me to drive!
After I had cataracts done I was horrified at how bad my sight had become previously, Scarily bad. I just didn’t see somethings at all.
Think it should be much harder to pass the eyesight test…just to save lives and injury through not seeing what is going on around you.
I have 80 year old friend who has glaucoma, cataracts and failing peripheral vision but not only drives daily but drives their motor home to Scotland from Devon twice a year.
They see nothing wrong in this, in fact complain bitterly when I said they must tell DVLA about his failing sight. They refused to report his eye problems!
Law needs to be tightened to stop people being killed and injured unnecessarily. GPs, opticians and eye consultants should have to report to DVLA the patients who fail the tests. Not reasonable for elderly (or anyone else) to report themselves to DVLA.
This comes from 75 year old!
I think the regulations about what is good eyesight need bringing into 21st Century. The minimum eyesight requirements for the 12 ton licence horrified me!! If my eyes were that bad I would apply for a white stick!!
Over the age of 70 then yes an eye test every 3 years, but for those below then certainly no more frequently than every 10.
Have you any idea how quickly your eyesight can deteriorate?
Chris, What makes you think that those under 70 have better eyesight than those over 70. There are many people who have poor eyesight of many ages. If you agree that eyesight tests should be compulsory then it should be for all drivers.
Totally agree, eye tests for all drivers irrespective of age. However, this would still not guarantee that drivers requiring spectacles would wear them when driving so what’s the point other than being a cash generator?
Not really a cash generator as most people get their eyes tested for free. and an opticians eye test should suffice. pehaps if it was a requiement to send said report to DVLA might persuade people to be more proactive about wearing their glasses. I cannot understand the mentality of the people who have gone to the trouble of getting an eye test done and buying prescription lenses and then not using them. Vanity is not a good excuse for not seeing where you are going. I have worn glasses now for 40 years and even though I do not have a very strong prescription I would not want to be driving with impaired viision.
I compliment you Duncan for being a responsible driver. However, I hate to disappoint you but, not all drivers are responsible, in fact, increasing evidence seems to support the fact that a great number are irresponsible.. As sad and as irresponsible as it is, I do know people who need spectacles for driving who, for one reason or another, very rarely wear them – either through vanity or forgot and “left them at home”. In addition, you can bet that, as soon as it becomes compulsory to send an official report to the DVLA, opticians will “cease the day” and charge you for it, in the same way that doctors charge for medical certificates. In the final analysis, there will be no guarantee that drivers will wear prescribed spectacles, and we will all pay more for the official certificate of our eye condition.
Sorry, meant “seize the day” not “cease the day” lol.
A mandatory driving test (re-test) every 5 or 10 years would be better. This would obviously include the usual sight check so would highlight those whose sight had deteriorated enough to fall.
Given that you have to replace your photo card every ten years anyway, would it really be that onerous to chuck in an opticians report at the same time?
The law says they have to give you a copy anyway, so just chuck it in with your new photo. Job jobbed.
Doesn’t mean you purchased glasses or that you use them sadly. But at least be a start.
Why not they are free, I have mine done every 2 years. Perhaps a medical every 10 years and an eye test every 5. One other thing is that driver medical fees should be standard not like now £50 – £150
Why are the tests aimed only at the over 70s? The 17 – 35 age group have more accidents, usually at high speed, the drivers probably haven’t had a test in years, perhaps since they were in school. I have my eyes tested every year, all drivers should have their eyes tested at least every two years. As others here have mentioned, your eye sight can degenerate without it being noticed.
I drive a Mazda 2 which is fairly low down on the road. Increasingly in the dark or in bad weather on country roads I am blinded by the oncoming headlights of SUVs. The beams even when dipped shine straight into the eyes of drivers in ‘normal’ saloon cars. I had to slow down to around 10mph – luckily nothing behind – and my eyes took at least 10 seconds to adjust back to where I could see to drive safely.
I have this problem as well, and it is not my eyesight (regularly checked and always wear contact lenses /specs)
I agree and have issues too with high mounted vehicles with powerful quartz halogen lights
Beware, have you been tested for cataracts? This is a typical symptom of those on the way towards needing natural lens replacement, ………… and you will never regret it. I’ve been there.
I know I am night blind so I don’t drive at night. I didn’t need anyone to tell me, I just don’t do it.
It is a problem for many especially the LED headlights. I cannot remember having any problems with oncoming correctly adjusted lights before they were introduced. Worse still is the authorities are aware that people with slight cataracts who can see perfectly well and legally drive are affected to a much greater degree. As usual money talks; LED headlights were introduced on top the range Mercs, BMW, Audi’s etc.
I know people with diabetes 1 who haven’t informed the DVLA. So they are falsely renewing their license.
Producing a good result on an eye test does not automatically mean you are OK. There are many who would pass but only if they wear their specs – but they don’t. It would be good if DfT started at the beginning and made everyone applying for a test produce a sight test certificate. The reading a number plate at X yards is so rule of thumb it’s laughable. I failed to manage to read both of the first two number plates when I took my test because the examiner chose two that meant I was looking into the low afternoon sun. When I complained about that he grunted and chose one in the opposite direction – no problem read it easily. Hearing tests would be good as well because so many people can’t hear emergency vehicle sirens because they don’t have their hearin aids in.
I thought the blue flashing lights would give them away.
Should add that many young drivers today have the music in their cars up so loud they wouldn’t hear a bomb drop behind them, but generally they are also spectacularly unaware of anything going on around their own little bubble.
Shouldn’t just be an eye test every 10 years. It should be a full driving assessment.
There absolutely needs to be compulsory eyesight testing. I know of a number of drivers who by their own admission say they cannot see so clearly. I would like to see some form of compulsory practical test every few years also as there are many very complacent, sloppy drivers out there who need bad habits ironing out. A license should not be for life and driving should be viewed as a privilege not a god given right. If then people took a bit more pride in their driving we would see better driving standards and less collisions.
10 years. In the country where my first licence was issued, has been requiring a eye test every 5 years and that has been the requirement for the last 20 years. Interestingly, its considered a 3rd world country.
On the subject of cost, people say have an eye test would be a form of taxation, are really showing their ignorance. Specsavers offers on a regular basis, free eye testing, in addition may of us have access to free eye testing on the NHS. If you have diabetes you effectively get your eyes test every 6 months if you plan it right. Diabetic eye screening is on an annual basis and you are advised to go for your free NHS eye test 6 months after that.
There is already a code on your driving licence re spectacles, hearing aids etc . maybe opticians should have to advise dvla of people who need to wear glasses ? Too many are too vain shocking and too many drive illegally on prescription medication and with health problems when they most definitely shouldn’t drive.
If an optician determines that you aren’t fit to drive, aren’t they already obliged to inform DVLA? Anyway, it could be done the other way around that opticians inform the DVLA electronically if you are fit to drive because this would avoid the need to submit pieces of paper to the DVLA & remove part of the potential red tape that is being proposed.
I agree we should have an eye test every time we renew our licence I am just over 70 years old and now have to renew my licence every 3 years so mine could be checked more often although at the moment my eyesight is checked yearly
Good eyesight is essential, so make it a part of renewing your driving licence (or min 10 years for those still with an old paper licence).
Many will have 2 yearly eye tests anyway, so they will have no problem.
Opticians could easily perform a “quick’n’easy” test and issue a certificate.
just another way to engage in Age Discrimination
European Union laws and British Laws against Age Discrimination
Join the discussion…Nothing to do with age discrimination – should apply to everyone who drives, whatever their age.
Eyesight, Highway Code & practical driving test every 10 years.
Fully agree Tests are required on a frequent basis. I was hit by a 95-year-old driver and have received medical attention over the last years Including a major operation.
Despite it being a clear case of dangerous driving the police decided not to prosecute as he revoked his licence.
If you are not fit to drive so be it. Strict rules must be applied with specific reference to the safety of others. I am aware of this case and it is clear that criminal act took place when driving knowing your eyesight was impaired.
Sentencing must be stricter to ensure that only those are safe to be on the road drive.
I believe that as part of learning to drive a vehicle you should initially get your eyes tested then you have starting line. As a spectacle wearer for the last 40+ years I know how easy sight can change and retested every 2 years. This should be the same for others and only a nominal fee for doing this. That way more people would be driving safely and being called back periodically. If it was added to the licence when you got it it could be an offence not to wear them if involved in an accident. The photograph does not allow the person to wear them so the only way to check on the roadside.
I believe it is a legal requirement to wear your glasses for driving if you need them. Pehaps not the correct phrase. I believe you can be prosecuted for not wearing corrective lenses when driving if you know you have impaired vision. The examples sited earlier by contributer about people not wearing glasses because they are “inconvenient” in sone way or for vanity reasons does not excuse driing about half blind.
A good idea. I have an eye test every year okay I don’t have to pay for them. Had my cataracts done last year which means I can drive with good eye sight hopefully safely. I dread the day when I have to give up driving but when I do it is in the interest of safety,
10 years is too long…. 5 years would be better… or even better, 5 years til 70 then 3 years for licence renewal (over 70 renewal is every 3 years)
Bad eyesight can easily occur within 10 or 5 years… my wife has a routine diabetic test and has developed massive loss in one eye due to a cataract in under a couple of years.
It must also be appreciated that you only need pass the number plate test (as used by police at the roadside as well as driving test) by reading a number plate with ONE eye.. the other eye is irrelevant
My husband has glaucoma and was required by the DVLA to have his eyes tested in order to ensure that his sight was good enough for driving. He had to go to Specsavers. There was no choice, because Specsavers have the franchise with the DVLA. It was a complete farce and it took Specsavers 3 separate attempts to perform the correct test. I am pleased to say that his licence was reinstated when the correct test was eventually done. We are dreading a repetition of this madness when he reaches 70 later this year. Whilst we welcome any initiative to ensure drivers are safe to drive, we would hope that certification could be done by any registered optician and not just by Specsavers, whose incompetence caused us great stress at the time.
I already work in an industry that has more stringent standards than DVLA for eyesight. I’m tested regularly (age dependant) during scheduled medical. And that’s over and above my regular trips to the optician every 2 years. Admittedly, I’m in Scotland, so my eye tests are free, but even at £20 a time, it’s a poor excuse to say it’s too much trouble. As road users, we should be trying to be the best we can be. Not for ourselves, but to avoid causing problems for others.
MOT for cars but nothing on health. What a joke.
A very good idea and not before time – but the price should be included in the licence renewal cost – no sight test, no licence, simples.
Eye tests are the tip of the iceberg. I would support a range of tests as is the case for pilots and for the testers to be able to ban (not advise) a person from driving and inform the DVLA. Enforcement will always be an issue as it is with uninsured or unqualified drivers. Perfection is not possible but it should not stop us from trying to prevent the death of anybidy else.
Compulsory eye tests for older drivers – the latest buzzwords in the campaign to get older drivers off the road. Does nobody realise that older drivers get free eye tests every two years and I get annual tests as I have Type 2 Diabetes! More accidents and more fatalities are caused by young drivers than by any other age group!
I have a friend who is registered blind, and whose poor eyesight heralded the end of his career in one of the emergency services. He tells me that he would be permitted to drive during daylight hours. Thank goodness he is not able to afford to buy a car.
Will not have to worry soon with all these driverless cars coming in soon !!
not just eye tests but a test on Highway Code knowledge as well
I reported a person to DVLA as they could hardly stand up or hold a conversasion without getting brethless, alleged lung cancer only has 2yrs to live (was told by a neighbour he said that to them 2yrs ago to them aswell)… they also had been involved in two driving incidents in a one week period… alas DVLA wanted me to provide them with their DOB and Driving Lisence Number… full name, address, car reg, doctors location wasnt good enough… the idiot is still on the road, driving down the centre of it as well towards other road users…
know of another person still driving even though they have now had two strokes…
has anyone noticed how Drew Prichard and his mate drive while on TV program Salvage Hunters… one handed, no handed… all recoded… why are they still allowed to drive?
How many of the drivers involved in accidents due to poor vision are under 50? I would guess that most of them are. There is also the problem of pedestrians who, after they have been involved in a car accident , say “I didn’t see it”.
I am 75 and drive 6-10000 miles per year. I do have regular eye tests and an happy for them to be compulsory, with the detaile being provided to DVLA
Eye test every ten years ? Everyone should retake their driving test every ten years problem solved, plus the people who’s driving is not up to standard are also off the road.
If eye tests are going to be brought into force everyone should have a vision test before a licence is issued, then five yearly thereafter!
Poor eyesight isn’t limited to an ageing population.
I know a few young people with poor sight, I’ve had to HAVE regular medicals which includes an eyesight test because I drove hgv vehicles, so why not all vehicle operators/drivers?
After all what good is it an hgv or psv driver having great eyesight to avoid accidents etc when you have many other poor sighted drivers on the road that are likely to cause accidents with them.
Many drivers are already covered by routine eye tests. Opticians could update computer records so that DVLA could seek confirmation in exactly the same way as currently happens for Insurance and MOT on vehicle tax renewal.
We live in a nanny state full of stealth taxes. Stop.
I Agree eye test every 10 years but over 40 years old & Upwards also a Competence Test for over 70’s
I would not want to live with the knowledge that I had injured or caused death due to bad health or poor eyesight affecting my driving so, I would be quite happy to have a medical and eyesight test every 3 years when I apply to renew my driving license and that is how it should be. 10 years is too long a period between tests, a lot can happen in that time!
it should be a legal requirement at least every 3 years. How many of these drivers will pay stupid prices at service stations for food yet think twice about a test that can save lives
Another stealth tax on the long suffering motorist by a bunch of do gooders who have bother better to do. Motorists of aengland unite & rise up against the constant screwing of us all.
I am diabetic and have my eyes checked twice a year, once by the optician and once by the hospital diabetic department. I will soon be 70 and have asked both my optician and doctor if they think, that I am medically fit to drive and they have cleared me as fit
I personally think that eye tests should be compulsory every 5 years for everyone age over 50, as our health seems to deteriorate faster after 50/60 and to me 10 years is far too long
Leave old people alone. Most voluntarily restrict the circumstances in which they drive according to their abilities but any test will be a blunt stick with a cut off designed for driving in the worst conditions.
When I hover here it instructs “Please fill out this field”
We are English. (other British Nationalities are available).
We don’t fill OUT we fill IN.