Eye tests should be compulsory for all drivers, says road safety charity

Eye tests should be compulsory for all drivers, according to road safety charity Brake, as survey results reveal 1.5 million drivers (4%) have never had their eyes tested.

The survey of 1000 drivers, by Specsavers, RSA Insurance and Brake, reveals one in five drivers put off visiting the optician despite warning signs, while 25% of drivers haven’t had their eyesight checked in more than two years. Brake says 40% of vision can be lost before a difference is noticed.

Currently before the driving test participants are asked to read a number plate from 20m away, but this doesn’t test visual field or contrast sensitivity, which are needed for safe driving. Brake estimates 2,900 casualties are caused each year by poor driver vision.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: “Making sure your vision is up to scratch is crucial to safe driving, and though it may seem there are plenty of excuses to put off going to the opticians, none is good enough when it comes to putting people’s lives at risk.

“If you drive, it’s not just your own health you are jeopardising by neglecting your eyesight, but the lives of those around you. That’s why it’s vital for drivers to get their eyes professionally checked at least every two years – eyesight can deteriorate rapidly without you noticing.”

Mark Christer, Managing Director of Personal Insurance at RSA, said: “We want far more rigorous checks that drivers’ eyesight meets the minimum standards. The UK’s ‘number-plate test’ is a relic of the 1930s and it’s no wonder so many other EU countries have introduced more modern testing. It is time we did too.”

In February 2009 tipper truck driver Joao Lopes, not wearing his glasses, pulled away from a pedestrian crossing in Notting Hill, killing cyclist Eilidh Cairns. His licence was temporarily revoked, given back on the condition he wore his glasses. However in 2011, driving a 32 ton lorry for a different employer, he killed again while not wearing his glasses, hitting a woman he failed to see walking on a pedestrian crossing.

In the UK 74% of people wear glasses or contact lenses. Brake is calling for a requirement from government that drivers prove a professional recent eye test when applying for a provisional licence, and at least every ten years after that.

Drivers over 70 years old must declare that their eyesight meets minimum legal standards when renewing their licence, but do not need to provide evidence of this.

More information about the Sharpen Up campaign can be found the Brake website.

  • captainPerfect

    Not only that. I estimate that 95% of drivers with glaucoma haven’t informed the DVLA and are therefore driving illegally as their insurance is invalid. Insurance doesn’t take this into account but these people need to be assessed and could have their licenses withdrawn, so they don’t contact the DVLA. Additionally, of the 1.5 million above, some will have glaucoma but not know it.
    Additionally, anyone who has had a heart attack or a full stroke should also advise the DVLA but they don’t in case their license is withdrawn.
    None of these drivers are insured as they haven’t complied with the law and advised the DVLA.

  • Lopekal

    Not just compulsory but obligatory every few years.

    Easy way to implement it is to get insurance companies onside to offer ‘lower’ (normal rate) premiums to drivers who provide annual eye test certificates but astronomical rates to those who do not.

    Back up this by making it a legal requirement to have documentation of eye testing when having to provide license, MOT, insurance documents during a police stop.

    If a certificate is not provided, make it an instant disqualification and drivers vehicle impounded until one is.

  • Texas Roadhouse

    Here, in Texas, if you wish to avoid a “glasses” notation on your licence, you have to take a quick vision test at the licence centre. Of course, licence issuing and renewal is done ONLY in person at the DPS locations. Mind you, we have plenty of other safety issues to deal with on the roads here!

  • colin

    Any surveys on the number of cyclists who’ve never had an eye test?

  • Laura Montgomery

    This is a rather scary statistic. And I could believe it. It took me 6 months of nagging to get my partner to get her eyes tested. And what do you know, she needed glasses. Only for reading, TV and… driving! Still occasionally doesn’t wear them when driving though! I shall be sharing this with her. Thanks for writing.