Almost 2,900 road casualties a year in the UK are caused by poor driver eyesight. As the driving test recently celebrated its 80th birthday, should stricter driver eyesight tests be introduced?
Having good eyesight is absolutely essential to safe driving but some drivers put themselves and others in great danger by going years without checking that their vision is up to scratch.
Once drivers have passed their driving test they may never need to prove that they can see well enough to drive.
Driver Eyesight: Where the Law Currently Stands
Drivers in the UK must be able to read a modern car number plate from a distance of 20 metres.
This ‘number plate test’ is part of the practical driving test and, unless police suspect an eyesight problem and stop a driver at the roadside, no other eyesight test is required by law at any time once drivers pass their test.
Drivers can literally go years without getting their eyes tested again. The dangers of this are obvious. If your vision deteriorates over the years you are at greater risk of not seeing another person or vehicle in time to stop your car and therefore being injured in a Road Traffic Accident.
When UK drivers reach the age of 70 they are required to renew their driving licence. Part of the renewal process includes the driver signing a declaration to say their eyesight meets the minimum legal standards.
No evidence is required of this as highlighted by a heart-breaking story from 2014 when a 73 year-old partially-sighted driver killed a pedestrian after misleading the DVLA when he renewed his licence after his 70th birthday.
How Driver Eye Tests Could Improve
The number plate test only tests a driver’s vision over distance. UK road safety charity Brake say that drivers should also be tested for any visual field problems or sensitivity to contrast or glare.
It is estimated that up to five million drivers in the UK would fail the number plate test if they had to take it again. A shocking one in eight UK drivers have admitted driving without glasses or contact lenses despite knowing that they need them to drive.
More than 1.5 million drivers in the UK have never had their eyes tested since passing their test.
What do Brake Recommend?
Brake is urging the UK Government to introduce compulsory regular eye tests for drivers. They would like people taking their driving test to prove they have had a recent, professional vision test.
Drivers should have their eyesight tested regularly after passing their test and at least every 10 years when they renew their licence photo card. This recommendation from Brake has strong public support with almost 87% of people in the UK in favour of this.
Research indicates this change in the law would significantly reduce the number of fatal road accidents caused by poor driver vision each year.
Brake also urges all UK drivers to get a professional eyesight test at least every two years and to always wear glasses or contact lenses if they need them.
You can read more about Brake’s Sharpen Up campaign here.
Jane Cooper is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
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