Drivers should have an eye test every decade, urge experts

Calls for law to be changed, as nearly half of optometrists report seeing a driver with poor eyesight in the last month

Eyesight experts are calling for drivers to undergo mandatory sight tests every ten years in the wake of a number of high profile road collisions where poor vision was a contributing factor.

Figures from the Department for Transport show “uncorrected, defective eyesight” was a factor in 193 collisions in 2016, resulting in seven fatalities and 245 injuries.

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) wants drivers to undergo a comprehensive eyesight 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.

• Calls to make eye tests compulsory for drivers

The UK driving test only requires drivers to read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres at present, with no further checks throughout their driving career. Motorists are simply required to self-declare their eyesight is good enough when renewing their licences each decade.

Yet a survey of 1,246 AOP members revealed 44 per cent of optometrists have seen a patient in the last month who has continued to drive despite being told their vision is below the legal standard.

The AOP also spoke to 2,000 members of the public, 1,300 of whom are regular motorists. Some 47 per cent of them agreed laws on vision for driving should be more rigorous, 49 per cent believe a compulsory sight test should be part of a driving licence being granted, and 26 per cent agree with the AOP’s suggestion that motorists should have their vision re-tested every decade.

Furthermore, 86 per cent of regular motorists surveyed said they would be happy to have their eyesight tested every five years or more frequently.

In addition, 27 per cent of all respondents said they would do nothing if they knew a friend or family member were driving in spite of having poor eyesight, while 12 per cent of motorists would continue driving as normal if they were told their eyesight could not be corrected to meet the legal standard.

AOP professional advisor Henry Leonard described the figures as “shocking”. He warned that sight loss can occur gradually, saying “people may not notice changes that could affect their ability to drive”.

The AOP’s “Don’t swerve a sight test” campaign also recommends drivers have their eyesight tested every two years to maximise safety.

Is self-assessment good enough, or should there be regular eye test for drivers? Let us know below…

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