Calls to mandate regular eyesight checks for drivers have received fleet industry backing. 

The new national Driving Blind campaign is calling for a change in legislation to legally require drivers to be tested by a professional optician before their driving test, and at every subsequent licence renewal application.

Currently, drivers are only required to read a number plate from 20m away during their driving test.

The campaign is also calling for employers to test the vision of company car users, on the basis that they can do as many miles as group two driving licence holders such as HGV and bus drivers.

Reacting to the launch of the campaign, John Pryor, chairman of fleet operator organisation ACFO, said, “ACFO would support any campaign aimed at improving driving standards and any call for clear guidance.

“Many fleets will already have regular eyesight tests for all drivers as part of their at-work driving policies, just as employers provide for free eyesight tests for staff using computers.

“Some time ago, Specsavers gave a series of presentations at ACFO regional meetings on the importance of regular eyesight tests for drivers and, I recall, they were well received by members and, like many things, acted as a memory jogger to ensure they took place.”

Pryor said the issue of eyesight checks was one that might be overlooked at firms without dedicated fleet managers.

“Like many issues in a fleet decision-maker’s in tray, eyesight tests are a subject that many will authorise as part of routine work; while other organisations will pick up within more general employee policies,” he said.

“However, there will be, I’m sure, some organisations, particularly in the SME sector, that do not employ full-time professional fleet decision-makers, where the requirement for regular eyesight tests for drivers may get overlooked, so a campaign is a good idea.”

The Driving Blind campaign says that, according to DVLA figures, nearly 50,000 motorists had their licence revoked or refused in the period from 2012 to 2016 due to poor vision.

It also cites a 2014 study by road safety charity Brake that found 1.5 million UK motorists had never had their eyes tested, and a 2016 study by insurance firm Direct Line that revealed 37% of people had not had an eye test in the previous two years.

Campaign spokesman Nigel Corbett said, “The only assessment of a driver’s visual capacity is a basic vision test conducted by a non-medically qualified driving test centre worker, which only considers their ability to read a number plate at a distance of 20m.

“They can then drive for the rest of their lives without ever having to prove their vision is fit for purpose. 

“We need drivers to provide evidence from an optical professional that their eyes are roadworthy before they get their licence and then at regular intervals throughout their driving career.”

The DVLA recently launched its own awareness campaign calling for drivers to regularly self-check their ability to read a number plate from 20m, advising that five car lengths or eight parking bays are easy ways to check the distance, and saying anyone with concerns should go for an eye test.

DVLA senior doctor Wyn Parry said, “The number plate test is a simple and effective way for people to check their eyesight meets the required standards for driving.

“Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time so anyone concerned about their eyesight should visit their optician – don’t wait for your next check-up.”

However, the DVLA campaign has been criticised by Corbett, who said it did not go far enough, and that a change to the law is required.

“I’d argue that the DVLA campaign is tilting at windmills by targeting the public and behavioural change in the first place,” he said.

“As all experts are saying, this is one for the politicians, not the DVLA. The UK needs mandatory eye exams for drivers as part of their licence renewal applications.”