Overhaul of driver eyesight regulations would ‘make Britain’s roads safer’

12.00 | 27 March 2017 | | 6 comments

GEM Motoring Assist is calling for an overhaul of driver eyesight regulations, suggesting a more detailed test would ‘cut collisions and make Britain’s roads safer’.

In a press release issued last week, GEM says a detailed test of a driver’s visual acuity and field of view should be required every 10 years – stating that regular mandatory eyesight tests for drivers would offer a simple and effective way of reducing collisions caused by defective vision.

GEM made the call following the publication a survey of more than 1,000 of its members, in which an ‘overwhelming’ 87% responded saying ‘compulsory eye testing would lead to safer roads’.

GEM’s road safety officer, Neil Worth, says the time has come to accept that the current driver eyesight test ‘simply isn’t fit for purpose’, adding that it is ‘certainly no longer acceptable for drivers to self-certify’.

He points to DVLA guidelines for medical professionals which state that eyesight can decline gradually and unnoticed, with people losing up to 40% of their visual acuity without being aware of any deterioration.

The eyesight test was introduced to the driving test in 1937 and has only been amended in minor ways over the years, reflecting changes in number plate sizes. It is the only eyesight test drivers are required to undertake until they reach the age of 70 years.

GEM says that field of view testing is a requirement in many US states – to check whether motorists can see and react to what’s happening around them.

Neil Worth said: “If you can’t see effectively, you shouldn’t be driving, but the truth is that there are many drivers whose eyesight has deteriorated to very dangerous levels.

“In an ideal world, we would want compulsory eyesight tests every two years, particularly for drivers 40 and above. But the most practical measure would be a test of visual acuity and field of view every 10 years, which would fit in with licence renewal, making it practical and enforceable.

“Compulsory eyesight tests would not only make our roads safer, saving lives, disability and many millions of pounds through the reduction in the number of crashes, but they are also a valuable tool for the early diagnosis of many other costly medical conditions, irrespective of driving.”




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    I have a friend who suffered a major reduction in his sight following a (non driving) head injury. He frequently has detailed sight assessments by medical experts as required by the DVLA. His sight is very far from perfect but is deemed to meet the threshold required for driving. Knowing his own sight imperfections and weaknesses, he self-regulates his driving.

    I wonder how his driving compares to those with “good” eyesight but “fail to see/comprehend” when they look – such as when distracted. Who represents the greater risk to others? There’s more to it than the medical condition of your eyes. Bikers and cyclists are very familiar with SMIDSY

    Pat, Wales
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    I am with Peter on this: I easily meet the current standards, but would not dream of driving without my glasses. Years ago I even passed the more strict LGV licence standards without using my glasses. If as a passenger in a vehicle, I remove my spectacles it is frightening how close to signs I am before I can read them, so my conclusion is that the current eyesight requirements are not fit for purpose.

    David, Suffolk
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    My optician has commented how horrified she has been by people’s eyesight being supposedly adequate for current regulations!

    Peter Logan Wigton Cumbria
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    We use the basic number plate assessment of eyesight on adults attending cycling courses. It came about after a summer using a keystone driver eyesight assessment machine across the City and some younger people tested were borderline and cyclists. Hence adding it to the instructors duty.

    Peter Wilson City of Westminster
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    I think that we also have to remember that “If you can’t see properly and aren’t driving” then you probably will be walking. People driving cannot expect everyone on the roads to have perfect eyesight and hearing as well as the mobility of Usain Bolt. Its another reason why we need an urban and village environment where our use of motor vehicles is consistent with the needs of all who use the roads.

    Rod King, Warrington, Cheshire, 20’s Plenty for Us
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    Every ten years seems a long time. Anything can go wrong with ones eyes in far less time than that. Over pension age one can get an eye test free and that should be an annual requirement the field of view test could be every three.

    I have difficulty with the captcha. I can’t see the mountains and / or read the street numbers.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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