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Keeping an eye out for safer drivers

Date: 29 November 2017   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

While there are many issues that affect road safety, poor eyesight is one that is often overlooked. 

However, road crashes involving a driver with poor vision are estimated to cause nearly 3,000 casualties in the UK and cost £33 million a year according to Brake, the road safety charity. 

As part of Road Safety Week - the UK's biggest road safety event, held on 20-26 November - many industry organisations, including Brake, have come together to highlight the impact that poor eyesight has on road safety and to call for changes to be made to relevant laws. 

Brake is campaigning for the law on driver vision to be strengthened, to require drivers to prove to the DVLA that they have had a recent, professional vision test when they take their driving test. It also says drivers should be required to have regular tests during their driving life, and to prove their vision has recently been 'passed to drive' via a test every ten years when renewing their licence photocard.

A recent Brake survey found that 25% of UK drivers haven't had a vision test in the past two years, and 4% (the equivalent of more than 1.5 million licence holders) have never had their eyes tested. In a separate study by the Royal College of Optometrists, one in 20 people aged above 40 said they had not been for a sight test for at least ten years, or could not recall when they last went. Estimates from the college also suggest 2-3% of drivers have vision below the minimum standard.

TR Fleet is another company that has voiced an opinion on this matter. It is supporting the Association of Optometrists' campaign, recently launched on BBC Breakfast, that  aims to ensure drivers have compulsory eye tests every ten years. However, TR Fleet has come out to say it supports the NHS recommendation of a test every two years. 

In the UK, the law requires drivers to be able to read a modern car number plate, from 20m away. Drivers must take it upon themselves to inform the DVLA if their vision (with glasses or contact lenses if needed) is below 6/12 (0.5) on the Snellen scale; if their visual field is less than 1,200; or they suffer from certain medical conditions.

In a statement sent to BusinessCar, TR Fleet says, "Nine out of ten optometrists believe the existing rule - that puts the onus on motorists to report themselves to the DVLA if they develop eyesight problems - to be insufficient. One in three optometrists say they have seen patients in the past month who continue to drive with vision below the legal standard."

TR Fleet's DriveSecure platform supports corporate clients to manage their driver eyesight policies, by offering a biannual eyesight test. DriveSecure also manages driving licence checks though the DVLA. Optical Express also stresses that members of the public who hold a driving licence should have a regular eye examination in order to make sure they meet the
necessary requirements. 

Stephen Hannan, clinical services director at Optical Express, says, "Good eyesight is an essential requirement for safe driving. Drivers with poor vision increase their risk of collisions, due to not seeing hazards and their inability to react in time to
driving hazards."

For some, Optical Express recommends that a repeat examination would be recommended on an annual basis, with the majority being every two years. 

"Our eyesight changes over time, so passing the sight test when you first passed your driving test doesn't necessarily mean your sight is still up to standard," says Hannan. "It is a very important public safety matter in the interest of the individual driver and the general public, as well as being a legal requirement before driving a car."