Government urged to improve drivers’ eyesight standards

12.00 | 5 March 2013 | | 7 comments

A consortium comprising Brake, the insurer RSA, and the Optical Confederation has called on the Government to revisit legislation on eyesight testing standards for new drivers.

The group is recommending driver eyesight be tested by a qualified optician when a driver first applies for a licence and at all licence renewals every 10 years.

Recent research by RSA found that crashes caused by poor vision cost the UK an estimated £33 million and result in nearly 2,900 casualties a year.

Cross party MPs, including John Leech, Barry Sheerman, and David Amess, believe the UK’s current interpretation of the EU Driving Licence Directive, which sets drivers’ eyesight standards, severely lags behind other European countries. They tabled an Early Day Motion on 26 February to raise those standards.

John Leech, MP for Manchester Withington, said: “The current UK number plate test falls far short of the standards for driver vision recommended in the European Directive. The Government needs to look again at the issue in order to reduce the number of crashes caused by poor vision and to improve road safety across the country.”

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, said: “Being able to see clearly what’s in front and around you is fundamental to safe, responsible driving. That’s why we urge drivers to have an eye test at least every two years, even if you think your sight is fine.

“We also hope to see common sense winning through and the Government tightening up the rules on driver eyesight. To make our roads safer and ensure everyone is fit to drive we need a scientific eyesight test at the start of your driving career and compulsory re-tests at least every 10 years thereafter.”

For more information contact Brake on 01484 559909.


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    If “L” drivers are learning with an ADI, then they should have their eyesight checked on their first lesson, as well as their licence. With regards to compulsory eyesight tests, I have as an ADI, sent pupils to an optician as I was concerned about their vision; their eyes were given a clean bill of health at the opticians but they scraped a pass on reading the car number plate at the beginning of the “L” test. However, I think some kind of eye testing at regular intervals should be compulsory after a full licence has been gained.

    Lucy, Scotland
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    A compulsory eyesight test before obtaining a provisional licence is long overdue in GB. Apart from driving, good vision is important for many other everyday tasks. Apart from detecting any eyesight deficiency, the eye examination will pick up any other problems. It’s recommended by optometerists that an eye examination should be undertaken every two years. The Irish system is working well ie: eyesight exam before obtaining learner permit. However, a recheck should be taken on at least renewal of licence. very soon all LGV and PSV will have a eyesight test every 5 years.

    Tom Harrington
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    So accidents caused by poor eyesight cost £33m a year. Would not eyesight tests for 30m drivers and the administration thereoff cost similar sums or indeed more, or much more allowing for time off work to take the tests?

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Everyone in the UK who works with a VDU is entitled to a free eye test every 2 years through their employer. Why not use this as the basis for a compulsory eye exam for every licence holder every 5 years? Not only would this monitor driver eyesight but could also improve the diagnosis of other health conditions for everyone easing pressure on the NHS. Reading a numberplate from across the car park is really not a fit for purpose test.

    Dave, Leeds
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    Interesting press release from Avon and Somerset Police about ‘Cassie’s Law’; not totally relevant to the initial story but very pertinent to the comments:

    Liz Mapstone, North Somerset
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    Another utter waste of time and money. There is a simple vision test that people perform on themselves every day and if they fail it they immediately present to the nearest Optician for a remedy. It’s called the “Can I see the telly” test and it’s almost 100% effective.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I support the notion of a simple test every 10 years i.e. place me in front of a number plate. I know this is not the “best” test but oak trees only grow from acorns and in these times seeking acorns is hard enough.

    pete, liverpool
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