The Association of Optometrists (AOP) have called for tougher laws on vision testing for motorists after it was found that 44% of all optometrists have seen a patient that shouldn’t be driving due to vision problems.
It’s estimated that around 2,900 accidents and injuries occur on Britain’s roads each year as a direct result of poor vision, and with motorists only needing to perform a simple check at the time of their practical test, there are no other mandatory testing procedures in place to check a driver’s vision ability.
In our previous article, we reported that an estimated 1.5 million drivers have never had an eye test and that it’s possible to lose up to 40% of your visual acuity without even realising there’s a problem. Poor vision is such a problem that police forces in the West Midlands, Hampshire and Thames Valley have been carrying out on the spot checks.
Following the introduction of Cassie’s Law, the police have new procedures in place that can fast-track the process of revoking a motorist’s licence should they fail a spot test; this can be done within an hour rather than several days, and over 600 motorists had their driving licence revoked in 2015 as a direct result of the new power.
Henry Leonard, a spokesperson for the Association of Optometrists said: “It is shocking that so many drivers are overlooking the importance of good vision. Sight change can often be gradual, and people may not notice any changes that could affect their ability to drive; this campaign is about reminding drivers that they should ensure they meet the minimum legal standard to drive and help to make our roads safer”.
Standard eyesight test
The standard eyesight test was introduced back in 1937, and although it has been through minor changes, it is still basic, to say the least; reading a number plate at the distance of 20 metres – around 4 to 5 car lengths. Simple yet effective.
Following on from this test, the onus is on the driver to be self-aware and self-reporting of any changes in their eyesight, and while the majority of UK motorists do comply, clearly there’s an element that either don’t realise they need to or just plain don’t accept it. With over 14,000 optometrists in the UK, that equates to just over 6,000 drivers that shouldn’t be driving.
Perhaps it’s about time that we adopted a similar practice to other parts of the world, where a full eye examination must be carried out before the licence examination?
The average cost of a serious road accident is around the £230,000 mark, a minor accident around £24,000. With 2,900 accidents each year linked to poor vision, that’s close to £70 million per annum, at the very minimum.
Awareness isn’t enough
Driving with poor eyesight could lead to a fine of up to £1,000, 3 penalty points or a discretionary disqualification, it could also invalidate your insurance. Alongside the Association of Optometrists, road safety charity Brake is pushing for drivers to understand the implications and consequences of driving with poor vision, but they’re also aware that the current laws don’t go far enough.
“Awareness alone isn’t enough, the Government must take the lead to improve our driver licensing laws and implement mandatory eye tests for drivers” – Joshua Harris, Director of Campaigns, Brake.
Whether you’re a glasses/contact lens wearer or not, the latest advice is that you should consider getting your eyes tested every two years – don’t wait until you recognise that there’s a problem. Early detection could mean that the problem doesn’t get any worse, but it should also help to ensure that you comply with legislation.
Furthermore, an eye examination can often pick up on other health problems such as brain tumours, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, along with regular eye problems such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma – getting your eyes tested regularly is a common-sense move.
A full eye examination can be found for as little as £10, free examinations and help to buy prescription glasses are available for certain people, and if you use a VDU (Visual Display Unit) through work, the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations of 1992 state that any employee using a VDU should be given an eye test when requested.
Getting an eye test can take as little as 30 minutes of your time but could save you a great deal of time and trouble in the future, don’t wait for that near miss.
Do you need glasses to drive? When was the last time you had an eye examination? Should the government introduce compulsory eye testing? Let us know in the comments.
How about those using Mobility scooters who don’t realise the danger to others if they have poor eyesight. My optician sent me for cataract operations so that I had good enough eyesight to continue driving.
The same here and after the operations I was shocked and concerned that my eyesight had been SO bad.
I had a small bump two weeks before my first eye was done and I realise that I simply had NOT SEEN the car I side swiped. Thank goodness it was only a bit of bodywork on both cars.
I keep thinking What if it had been a motorcycle?
But 2 weeks before I had the accident I was assured by the eye clinic that I was still just legal to drive.
I think we should have eye test every 2 years this the normal recommend time by optometrist
Indeed – or maybe slightly longer – and a reference number to prove it. Log in to driving licencing to register it – or face a knock at the door and the prospect of a very heavy fine. Job’s a good un!
These days we have computer’s so the eye test could be sent immediately to the DVLA.
Sorry John but I believe it should be every year
The DVLA has records of all “legal” drivers, so why not impose a regular eye test for them, with optometrists providing details of the test, and when it was taken. Failure to comply would mean revoking licence.
Definitely. In the case of drivers over 70, your 3 year licence renewal should have to include an optometrist report and a copy of your eye test.
There are many drivers under that age that have poor eyesight, don’t just pick on older drivers
im now 61 with eyesight that’s been deemed above average, but in the last 10yrs we’ve had 4 accidents where cars have hit us with dare I say doddery old fools that have all been well over 70 odd with eyesight so bad that one even swore he hit the 6′ X 3.5′ trailer we were towing because it was so wide that it stuck out from our car, Vectra Mk2 estate (in a straight line) & the damage on the front wing & mirror was not done by him (bits of our headlight & mirror all over the rd lol) & I get called a buffoon!
It should cover ALL drivers of all ages not just older drivers, your sight is most important for driving & so should apply to all &Yes I have a regular sight test & have done so for some years as i understand the importance of good sight.
I agree, but 70 is the first age that the DVLA intervenes in the holding of your licence – at the moment
Your eyes start to get worse from 40 so only making it from 70 is not only age discrimination but pointless.
I had to renew my licence at 70 & I think had to confirm that my vision had been checked & whether I could drive without distance glasses or only with them. You are entitled to a free eye test every 2 years once you are over retirement age so perhaps that could be made compulsory & results submitted to DVLC automatically.
A eye test on passing theory test for learners licence and on passing practical test has been a requirement in South Africa for over 25 years. For over 20 years it has also been a requirement every 5 years on renewal of driving licence card, irrespective of age.
“44% of all optometrists have seen a patient that shouldn’t be driving due to vision problems.” So, if the optometrist’s first question on seeing a patient was “Do you drive” they should have the ability and sense to do something about it! Personally I have had my eyes tested every 2 years, since the age of 10, that’s more than 60 years, AND I carry a spare pair of glasses in the car, as everyone should. Sounds holier than thou, but, I want to get to my destination in one piece.
Excellent idea. And possibly some sort of refresher test of continuing driving ability.
Would you pass John , I would in test mode but it might be a maybe if not, I have even seen driving instructors driving badly and they are teaching the next generation of drivers and thats another subject.
Does anyone know how to remove the needs to wear glasses endorsement from one’s driving licence? Last year, I had cataracts removed from both eyes and my optometrist told me that I was OK to drive without glasses.
It is not in place now, but it would be so simple to get a card printed from the result of ones eye test. Cary it along side a drivers licence in your wallet. Job done. Insurance companies could also issue similar small cards to hand over, swap at traffic incidents. Would save all the swapping and hunting for paper and pencils in accidents. Just hand over card, and if possible drive off. Police would have all the details too if they are called.
Who carries their driving licence? It’s bad enough carrying all the other junk around.
I keep a photocopy (very old green version) in my glove box along with copy of insurance and MOT. Same with moped paperwork.
Last time i checked on the DVLA website the code for driver must wear glasses is only used for bus and hgv drivers. If you have that code i would assume contact the DVLA to remove
I noticed my license has code to wear glasses for driving and only drive a car, I can only think photo I first sent to change to photo license had my glasses on and it was taken from that as I have never had to declare it that I can remember.
It is on my licence which is renewed every 3 years as I have glaucoma. I believe it is on anyone with a notifiable eye condition. To renew my licence I have an eye test, so I can be confident that I meet the requirements. I did ask my insurer if I could have a discount as I have undergone more testing than most of my age, they refused.
Surely cyclists must be covered as well, as not being aware of other traffic causes accidents.
Cyclists having to abide by the law? Perish the thought.
And pedestrians, presumably.
Ah, yes, because cyclists are such a significant cause of danger and death! Next you’ll want pedestrians to be made to have eye tests before they can leave the house? When we drive our motor vehicles we have a massive responsibility because we are in control of something very dangerous – a couple of tonnes of metal moving at high speed through our communities. There is no jusitification for “whataboutery”. The physics and statistics are very simple – motor vehicles are a significant danger (and leading cause of death of school-aged children in the UK) and people on bicycles are not. When driving we need to leave space for other road users (of all types) to make mistakes and take responsibility for the danger our vehicle poses to others.
That aside, most cyclists are also drivers so would be covered anyway.
cyclists are not covered for riding through red lights though are they? Perhaps cyclists should have a colour blindness test!
WITHOUT A SHADOW OF DOUBT EYE TESTS SHOULD BE PART OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR SAFE DRIVING EVEN PART OF INSURANCE CHECKS WHEN I LIVED IN SPAIN IT WAS PART OF THE HEALTH CHECKS FOR GETTING A LICENCE AS AN EX NURSE I CAME ACROSS A MAN WHO WAS UPSET HIS GP HAD TOLD THE DVLA HE HAD CATARACTS AND SHOULD NOT BE DRIVING GOOD ON THE GP
PLEASE DON’T SHOUT! Typing in all uppercase is classed as shouting.
A lot of visual impaired people use capitals, as they are easier to read. I think given the content of the article, we could give a pass in this situation? Or just be more tolerant in general, since visually impaired people use the internet too?? 🙂
Except it’s not him that has the cataracts. As for capitals being easy to read that depends on the font. Some fonts are terrible for the visually impaired. Full Disclosure – ex-RNIB IT employee.
especially when in light grey, this website is only just dark enough, some sites done by millennials are so hard to read, esp on mobile devices. Tiny light grey text.
Fully agree, optician says no problems for driving but I find grey text and some colour on colour text difficult to read on notebook screens as so small when getting older. The says dry eye, contrast and slower focusing affects older people but fine for normal vision.
Yes, but lower case is whispering, so I might not be able to hear them 😜😜
And what about punctuation? Why can’t people talk and use correct English?
Parrots talk, people speak!..
They do have sight tests if you remember, read the number plate over there the blue, that is the standard but an eye test at 40 45 yrs and every 3yrs after 55 would be a good idea but would it be free I’d guess not as some opticians like GP’s would jump on the money wagon and charge near on £200 probably because they don’t want to be bothered doing it
I have been saying this for years, the test should also be on a database link to the DVLA just like your insurance, road tax and MOT also eye test should be compulsory after a certain age. Your eyes age the same as the rest of your body.
What about prosecuting aggressive cyclists who think they own the road. Lay off the ordinary motorists .
Roads were not made for cars
Don’t be ridiculous, of course they were. What other justification is there for the M25?
Roads were made for driving on not as many believe for parking their vehicles on thats if they cannot park on the pavement as many do
There is aTruck drivers medical every few year but not cars or vans
Leaving aside the consequences for people involved the wasted money dealing with accidents and there aftermath means we should get the law changed quickly. A full eye test, with a certificate from an optometrist should be required even to get a provisional licence. A two yearly retest and proof of it to DVLC every two years to continue to be allowed to drive. From age 65 or if deteriorating sight is found annual tests should be required. Doctors and optometrists should be required by law to report to DVLC anyone found with sight deteriorating or not safe for driving.
Patient confidentiality is a poor excuse for overlooking unsafe drivers who may go on to maim or kill somebody. An eyesight test for any driver suspected of a dangerous driving offence, with a doubling of the maximum penalty if convicted, should be the law.
Include other road users as well
Our cars are not allowed on the road without an MOT, unless they are less than three years old, so why not our eyes and bodies?
There are probably a number of drivers on the road suffering with dementia too. There are currently no checks on a drivers capabilities.
A certificate from an optician to get your road tax could be the answer?
True. My mum has dementia and doesn’t know what day it is, so wouldn’t be able to start the car let alone drive it.
When you take your driving test you have to pass an eyesight test at the start, or the test won’t happen. The problem is that after that no one ever checks again
If you regularly wear glasses like I do its easy to provide a copy of your latest test, but what about people who have genuinely never needed them? Regarding cyclists, anyone who takes any vehicle on the road and requires glasses should be required to provide evidence of their latest test. Just as anyone who uses a vehicle on the road is required to provide third party liability insurance, how come cyclists aren’t required to have that? Cyclists are capable of causing just as much damage and injury as car and motorcycle drivers, who are at least required to keep to the road and excluded from pavements.
You can have a perfectly valid eye test and not even buy the glasses, so surely evidence of a test means nothing.
Yes you should have regular eye tests my eye found cataracts which I could not tell I will add have now been done so got great vision I will still go for regular eye tests
What it needs is that when you apply for or renew your licence an optician must state on the form if you need glasses and if you are safe to drive. Use the existing code thats only used for bus and hgv drivers to indicate if a driver should be wearing glasses.
If you visit an opticians and tell them you drive and they advise you should wear glasses have them update dvla with that info. Driver number is all the reference thats needed. No extra cards required.
As i understand it if an optician has advised that you should wrar glasses to dtive and they have reason to believe you are not(you dont have any prescribed) they can report you. All these checks would be payable by the driver of course or costs of license would go up.
Maybe these optometrists should grow a pair and report any poor eyesight to the DVLA
They should be legally obliged to do so. Although you’ll no doubt get civil liberties campaigners complaining about it!
Optometrists drumming up business.
Partially, Andy hits the nail on the head, optometrists are looking for business., hence the big push. However, I’m expecting revocation of my license ,due to having been honest, and declaring I have visual problems. I am suspicious of optometrists anyway, having once in my earlier days being told I needed glasses, when a good optician told me I didn’t. Granted there are some drivers on the road that should be wearing glasses, but who’s to say they really do, or just lack common sense? – You see some really stupid maneuvers on the roads, and it’s down to bad driving., not necessarily down to bad eyesight.
We were hit by another road user who I suspect couldn’t see properly. I tried challenging their insurance company to provide details of their insured’s eye tests but our insurers refused to make the request (I think they know what a can of worms that would open).
I have an eye test every two years as per RNIB advice. Definitely need to look at dashcams. Maybe we should call them bashcams?
I routinely have an eye test every year, perhaps others would voluntarily follow suit if the test were available free on the NHS. It’s all very well waving a stick, imposing ever more rules & regulations but what about the occasional carrot?
Of course if you leave your glasses on the dashboard like this it’s a very big giveaway! Plus you’re going to have an accident!
That’s all well a good but another expense for us all. Eye tests and getting glasses/contact lenses is a huge expense needing to be paid before you get the glasses or contact lenses. Unless that is you are on benefits
Looks like you don
t put much value on a life, if you cant afford a sight test & glasses then how can you afford a car
As an Optometrist I can confirm that many people , particularly men are resistant to wearing glasses for driving This includes people who have attended because they can’t see the television properly which; as most TV”s about 20 feet means that theire vision will be worse at further distances.The further away the worse it will be. The most resistant are those who have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed good sight from birth and don’t think it will change as they age.
More worrying are those with medical eye conditions who despite bring told they must cease driving as glasses won’t help them but continue to do so anyway.
Inevitably they end up injuring or killing others and not themselves.
Driving is a privelige and not a human right
Definitely agree with this idea. I also think some kind of reaction speed test is necessary. Too many elderly drivers seem oblivious to what’s happening around them and drive far too slowly to compensate for slow reactions. This is frustrating for other drivers.
May be a few but there are far more young drivers distracted by looking down at smart phones when driving and missing more than a glance. Maybe a dash cam watching driver and sending real time images to a national centre would be a good item for new law.
All drivers should be compelled to have a full eye test every two years, from the date of passing their driving test.
I have used Spec savers and the optromist always asks if I am still driving and checks that my sight is within the law and the first time he advises me I am not I shall immediately dispose of the car and return my licence to the DVLA
Absolutely right. But it would be helpful if our licences wee as those in America where there is a ‘restricted category between having one or not. Typically this is ‘daylight driving only@ which would help many older folk who otherwise have to give up altogether. Also so preparation for the stress the surrender causes.. I know, I’ve just surrendered my licence after 62 years 7 months 11 days.
Unfortunately, it’s not just those with poor vision who don’t see. I used to ride an electric bike to and from work. Most of the trip was on cycle tracks but the last 400-500 yards was on a 40 mph road with no possibility of riding anywhere but on the road itself. It was November and dark. I had a flashing and a permanently on white light on the front of my bike and the same in red on the rear, a flashing rear red light on my helmet, flashing red bands on both wrists and both ankles and another flashing red light hanging down my back. All in all 10 BRIGHT lights. All had good batteries and were very bright. There’d been a breakdown on the road I had just left and traffic was backed up so no-one was getting through the traffic lights in the other direction. Mr Smarta**e decided to do a U turn and take a different route. I just managed to get out of the way on to the grass as his car mounted the kerb where I’d been a fraction of a second before. He wound down his window, said “sorry mate I didn’t see you” and drove off! My wife made me stop using the electric bike and I went back to using a car.
*THERE’S NONE SO BLIND…*
I first had an eye test in my late 20s, and found that what I thought was normal vision was not. I have worn glasses ever since, and have been a safer driver. I should have had an eye test sooner.
If you wear glasses already it shows on your licence its those that don’t wear glasses that need the eyes testing. Every2 years as you get older and as it is free it doesn’t cost alot
The regulations on workplace use of VDU and other jobs where there is demand use of eyes is compulsory if the employee requests one
Let’s test everyone over 15 than I could be safer for everyone..or even when you a been and had your eyes tested,the DVLA would be notified.
I can read a car number plate well in excess of 50 metres and I am 72. 20 metres is no distance and judging by the amount of motorists that pull out in front of me I agree there must be a problem.
Opticians should be able to ask if someone having an eye test holds a driving licence and report to the DVLA anyone who should not be driving because of their eyesight
For reasons that are very out of date, 70 has become that age where people seem to think drivers become incapable. It is nonsense! People live longer and are mostly much fitter at 70 than years ago when the age for the reissue of a licence was set. Stop trying to lump people of 70 with those in their 80’s and 90’s, some of whom are very sprightly too, and take each case on its merits.
As a 69 years young driver with type 2 Diabetes I have my eyes tested every year without fail.
i have also been a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists for 25 years, which places certain obligations on me and quite rightly so.
It should be compulsory for anybody with Diabetes ( Type 1 or Type 2 ) to undergo a 12 monthly Eye Test by law
After ticking a box on The form sent to me by DVLA to renew my licence 3 years ago ( I’m required to renew every 3 years now) I was sent for a DVLA arranged sight test which I passed. My licence is up for renewal agsin in a few weeks and I’ve just been sent for another DVLA test. I passed again and my licence reissued for another 3 years. Great, I’m fit to drive and it gives me more confidence 🙂
I have recently had two cataract operations. I thought they were successful until I realised I couldn’t read subtitles on the TV. I made an appointment to see my optometrist who advised me to stop driving immediately which I did. I now have to wait six months to have the operations corrected. I didn’t realise how dangerous I had been. If anyone has the slightest doubt they should get their eyes tested. It should be made compulsory for allover 50 to have annual checks.
I am a 70year old driver and agree that eye check ups be made annually for all drivers. I am blind in my right eye and have had 3 detached torn retinas, and a failed cornea transplant. The DVLA are aware, and I also have monthly checks with bandage contact lens and a full DIABETIC EYE check up every year.
I enjoy driving and yes I am due to have my licence reviewed.
My left eye has seen no change since 2015, which has pleased me.
Do not discriminate for people aged 70, there are drivers who never have taken a test. And some drivers think it’s cool not to wear their spectacles when driving. Where do we start with this debate, surely the government and Depart for Transport along with the Health Minister should be giving this debate more thought and implement a Bill to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
The government should make five yearly eye tests compulsory for all drivers, there is currently a get the older driver off the road campaign going on, with poor eyesight being used as a valid reason. However it not only older drivers who have poor vision, deteriorating vision is a gradual process that starts at around 25 years old as do many other bad things, therefore proper five yearly eye tests should be made a condition of All drivers keeping their licences from the moment that they receive the first full drivers licence.
I am having issues with my peripheral vision due to a diabetes problem which the skin overhangs the eyelids. And wonder if the NHS would carry out an operation to correct this problem so, my vision from above and to the side is corrected.
I am having an issue with peripheral vision. I am unable to see perfectly above and to the sides. Skin overhangs the eyelids and prevents me seeing above and to the sides due to a diabetes condition.
I’ve gotten so used to wearing glasses all the time (the only time they are off is when I’m in bed) that if I do take them off my vision is appalling for a good few hours until my eyes adjust. I can barely read a number plate from a meter away for the first few hours! My vision does improve as my eyes adjust to not having my specs on but it takes about 16 hours before I’m able to read a number plate from 20 meters away without them! Even though I’m capable of seeing for the minimum distance, I can see even further with my glasses on so I insist on wearing them
They will never enforce an eye test every 2 years for the same reason they will never restrict the top speed of cars to 70MPH… Fines! If people are banned from driving due to poor eyesight, not only are they unable to be fined should they be pulled for an eye test, they also make less revenue from vehicle tax, fuel duty etc as there are less people on the road!
What will be next I ask myself. Smart motorway’s, speed camera’s that can see a 1000 metre’s away if your on your mobile, lowering the speed on dual carriageways from 60 to 40mph without good singage, they tell us it is all for our safety. Not as we the motorist suspect we are just cash cows for them. Next it will be do we drive with the correct foot wear.
God knows how the police who say they cannot manage crime I suspect because they only look for motorist to roll in the cash.
Lorry drivers have been subjected to eye tests since 1969, why are motor bike /cycle/ and car users exempt from eye tests??
The law requires you to read a standard no plate, how many do you see that have been altered to give the driver a sense of importance, but worse than that they stick said plate on the back of a very large car or truck . Now if you cant see that then you are in deep do do.
When your photograph needs changing on your licence every 10 years, the best initial step for eyesight testing.
Thereafter every year after 70 years of age.
PCV and HGV have theirs tested every 5 years along with a medical, which is mandatory.( this includes the smaller school buses.)
No medical! no licence! No Drive! everyone feels safer.
I think everyone who drives should have a valid eye test when applying for road tax at least. I’m over 50 wear glasses and have my eyes tested every 2 years and every 2 years, at the moment, my prescription has changes which is a characteristic of aging. I also think after 60, I’m nearly there, people should have to take a driving refresher at least if not a retest. Perhaps as an incentive our insurance premiums could be reduced something like having a black box? There are certainly a lot of dangerous drivers out there
As for cyclists they should be forced to take a cycling proficiency test at least. My partner was driving a traction engine a few months ago and a cyclist overtook on the inside with clearly no clue that if the engine had moved over slightly he would have been killed as no human will win a fight with a traction engine. Like lorries they also have blind spots
I have a druggie friend who has terrible eyesight, uses Pound shop glasses occasionally but thinks his distance vision is ok for driving. He’s hit parked vehicles and inanimate objects many times, so is a serious injury accident waiting to happen.