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.

‘Shocking’ numbers

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.

Eye tests

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.

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