GEM calls for compulsory eyesight testing for all drivers

12.00 | 5 January 2016 | | 5 comments

GEM Motoring Assist is the latest road safety organisation to call on the Government to introduce compulsory eyesight testing for all drivers at regular intervals.

Last month (Dec 2015), Road Safety GB supported a call from a leading ophthalmologist urging drivers to undergo regular eye tests to ensure they have a clear view of the road, especially in the winter months.

David Teenan, UK medical director at Optical Express, stated that longer nights, low sun and treacherous weather can significantly impede the sight of drivers – causing temporary blindness in some cases.

GEM believes that a detailed test of a driver’s visual acuity and field of view should be required every 10 years and says that better regulation of eyesight tests for drivers would cut collisions and make Britain’s roads safer.

David Williams MBE, GEM chief executive, said: “We are worried that a large number of drivers have not had their eyes tested for many years – and some have never had a test.

“Many of us assume our vision is fine and does not require a check-up; however we have no way of knowing this for sure. That’s why it’s so important for road safety that the Government take steps to ensure regular, compulsory testing for all drivers.

“We believe it is unacceptable to operate a system where a driver can read a number plate aged 17 and carry on driving for 50 years or more without any eyesight check whatsoever.

“Along with many road safety organisations, we believe everyone should undergo a compulsory, professional eyesight test when applying for a provisional licence, with a further test every 10 years after that.”

GEM also says that the current ‘number plate’ eyesight test, introduced to the driving test in 1937, is ‘crude and outdated’, as it only measures visual acuity (sharpness).

David Williams MBE added: “The time has come to accept that the current driver eyesight test simply isn’t fit for purpose. What’s more, it is certainly no longer acceptable for drivers to self-certify.

“As more and more people are staying behind the wheel into their eighties and beyond, the need for mandatory eyesight testing has never been more pressing.”


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    Make full eye tests (i.e. including peripheral vision) compulsory at least every 5 years. Much can go wrong with one’s vision within a 5 year span let alone 10. Drivers should pay for the test themselves the make it self-financing (a small price to pay for the privilege of being allowed to drive) and opticians should have a legal duty to inform the DVLA about anyone who does not meet the minimum standards of vision required for driving.

    Open questions to the government of the day: 1.”Do you TRULY believe in doing everything you can to improve road safety because if the answer is ‘YES’ then you should be implementing the above proposal forthwith. Perhaps, though, you may feel that taking what could be many tens of thousands or more people off the road would severely reduce government income from the myriad of sources that drivers/vehicle owners currently provide. In that case you should simply allow those individuals who are visually unfit to drive to continue, in which case your argument is that economics takes precedence over injuries and lives.

    Chris, Birmingham
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I once came across a statistic that claimed that 7% of UK full licence holders had eyesight poor enough to qualify them to classified as blind. Of course, that does not mean that 7% of the vehicles we meet are driven blind, because such drivers will probably drive no more than a handful of miles per week to visit the shops, or doctor’s surgery, etc., but they are out there. The system of self-declaration does not work, and needs to be fixed.

    David, Suffolk
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    Surely it makes sense for everyone to have their eyesight tested regularly, not just riders or drivers? An eyesight test can detect health problems such as high blood pressure, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetes.

    Paul Biggs, Tamworth
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    Yes the current test is not really fit for purpose and more needs to be done but we also need to test cyclists eyesight. I have observed the bike ability training where adults are asked to tell how many fingers an instructor holds up to show the trainee is looking behind. Bikeability say that is their eyesight test. Even if a number plate test were to be done this would be better than what currently happens. Imagine a trainee having an incident and subsequently it is discovered their eyesight was poor and the instructor did not check this. Where would the trainer, the company or the LA overseeing training stand? Let’s not just test drivers but cyclists as well and as GEM suggests every 10 years.

    Peter City of Westminster
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I agree with the proposal. The current policy has no logic. We don’t trust people to self declare before we give them a license but we trust them for the next 50 years or more. This is not a safe system. As a quick calc let’s assume there are around 20 million drivers who would need to be tested every 10 years – this is around 2 million a year. But of these around 60-70% (College of Optometrists figures) will have been wearing glasses and already have been tested. So the annual population of new tests would be a few hundred thousand per year. In cost terms this is very small and has other health benefits away from driving. Many opticians offer a free test if you buy your glasses with them. Even at full cost this is a small price to pay for safety and health.

    [Interesting facts if you google “Britain’s Eye Health in Focus”]

    pete, liverpool
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