Drivers should have an eye test every decade, experts urge

Motorists should be given a compulsory eye test every decade to ensure they are fit to be on the road, experts say.

Drivers should have an eye test every decade, experts urge

Almost half of optometrists in the UK have seen a patient in the last month who continued to drive despite being told their vision is below the legal standard, a report by the Association of Optometrists (AOP) has revealed.

The findings come as pressure mounts on the government to change the law on vision requirements for motorists, following a series of high-profile road collision cases in which poor eyesight was a contributing factor, as almost 3000 injuries on UK roads each year are estimated to be caused by drivers with poor vision.

Under existing UK law, drivers must undergo an initial number plate test when taking a driving test, then complete a self-declaration for renewing their licence thereafter. This means a 17-year-old who can read a number plate from 20 metres away when they take their test, may continue to drive with no further checks for the rest of their life.

The AOP says these laws are among the latest in Europe and is calling for a change to the law that would require drivers to have a comprehensive vision check to prove their vision meets the legal standard when they first apply for the licence. The AOP is also calling for drivers to face a mandatory retest, every 10 years, with more frequent checks after the age of 70.

The AOP spoke to 2,000 members of the public, 1,300 of whom are regular motorists, it shows that:

  • Around half (47 per cent) the public agreed the laws on vision for driving should be more rigorous – compared to just four per cent who believed they need to be relaxed
  • Of those who want more rigorous laws – half (49 per cent) believed a compulsory sight test should be part of a licence being granted and a quarter (26 per cent) wanted motorists to have a sight test at least every 10 years
  • Nearly nine in 10 (86 per cent) of regular drivers would be happy to have their vision checked every five years or more frequently
  • However, one in 20 (six per cent) motorists on the UK’s roads admitted they’ve doubted whether their own vision is good enough to drive yet have done nothing about it
  • Nearly a fifth (17 per cent) of regular drivers admitted they have never self-checked their own vision by reading a number plate as suggested by the DVLA’s recommendations
  • Shockingly, one in 10 (12 per cent) regular motorists would continue driving as normal if told their vision could not be corrected to meet the legal standard, while 42% would continue to drive in some capacity, such as cutting back on short journeys or only driving locally
  • A quarter (27 per cent) of the public would do nothing if they knew a friend or family member who continued to drive with poor eyesight

Optometrist and AOP Professional Advisor, Henry Leonard said

"It is shocking that so many drivers are overlooking the importance of good vision. Sight loss can often be gradual, and people may not notice changes that could affect their ability to drive.
This campaign is about reminding drivers that regular visits to their optometrist are the best way to make sure they meet the legal standard for driving and help make our roads safer.”