‘Get your eyes tested’ is the advice, following research that reveals 30% of motorists are overdue an eyesight test.
Not only is this putting lives at risk, but drivers are risking invalidated insurance, a heavy fine, points on their licence and even disqualification. Tests cost from as little as £10, while Tesco Opticians offers a free 30-minute eye test.
If you’re under the age of 16 (or 19 if you’re in full-time education), or over 60, you’re entitled to a free eye test on the NHS. In Scotland, everyone gets free eye tests. So there’s no excuse for not booking an appointment.
Earlier this year, Vision Express teamed up with road safety charity Brake with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of regular eye tests, claiming that five million UK drivers would fail a number plate test if they had to take it again.
Eye tests save lives
According to Brake, road crashes due to poor driver vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties in the UK every year. Vision Express has been lobbying the government to display signs on major roads and motorways, encouraging drivers to book an appointment.
This follows a successful campaign in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with Vision Express and Brake keen for Highways England to display ‘EYE TESTS SAVE LIVES’ on roadside matrix signs.
Last year, further research conducted by Vision Express found that 15% of drivers haven’t had any form of eye test since reading a number plate as part of their driving test, on average 14 years ago. And while 92% of drivers claim their eyesight meets the legal requirement, more than 60% couldn’t identify what this is*.
Neil Worth, roadside safety officer at GEM Motoring Assist, said: “Our eyes are the most important sense we have when it comes to driving. Around 90% of the information we process is visual, so what we see is a fundamental element of our decision making. Many of us take our eyesight for granted, so the tendency is to ignore eye health.
“GEM has long argued the case for compulsory regular eyesight testing for drivers of all ages. The present situation relies on individual drivers taking responsibility for their own eye health. That’s why it’s so important to get regular checks.”
In June, Brake wrote to Jesse Norman MP, the new minister for roads, outlining a raft of key road safety priorities, including compulsory eyesight tests for drivers and what it calls “rigorous enforcement” of the laws relating to vision impairment and distraction.
Earlier this month, police in Birmingham posed as cyclists to catch drivers putting bikers lives at risk. Around 200 offenders were pulled over during the operation, with 13 drivers prosecuted for failing roadside eyesight tests. A further two drivers had their licences revoked.
The maximum penalty for driving with defective sight is £1,000, three penalty points or a discretionary disqualification.
Five steps to healthy eyes
GEM has outlined five tips to encourage the best possible eye health for drivers:
- Get an eye test: the guidelines are every two years until the age of 70, then annually after this.
- If you have been told to wear glasses for driving, make sure you wear them.
- Always carry a spare pair of glasses, especially on long journeys and when driving abroad.
- If you’re struggling to see at night, get your eyes tested.
- Don’t deal with night-time glare by wearing glasses or tinted lenses. Adjust your seat and avoid looking directly at oncoming headlights.
Advice for employers
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their drivers are fit and able to drive, and being able to see is the most basic requirement for safe driving. Research conducted by Specsavers found that up to 40% of employers haven’t asked if their drivers can see properly.
The company offers eVouchers to employers, which staff can use in store in exchange for eye tests and glasses, if required. Its driving eyesight toolkit is designed for employers and employees.
*Drivers must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary), a modern car number plate (made after 1 September 2001) from 20 metres away.