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Eye Checks For Driving

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 6 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Eye Checks Drivers Bad Eyesight Road

According to a number of surveys conducted over the last few years, the UK's drivers are not keeping up to speed with changes in their eyesight. It's reported that a third of drivers have such bad eyesight that they could be putting themselves and other road users in danger.

It's thought that a staggering 13 million drivers are not having their eyes tested often enough and so if there are any changes to their vision - resulting in them being unable to read road signs properly, then they won't be aware of them.In a 2004 survey carried out by Warwick University on people who did not wear glasses, one in every three people who failed a basic eye chart test were drivers - and worse still, 33% of the overall sample who failed to read the charts successfully, said that they had suspected that they were not able to see to the necessary standard, but had done nothing about it.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind recommend that everyone has an eye test every 2 years, as the tests can detect a number of eye-related illnesses as well as making sure that your vision is well maintained. Far from just checking your eyesight, regular eye tests can detect serious conditions like diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which is the main cause of loss of sight in older people. Many eye conditions can affect driving performance, for example cataracts are guilty of increasing glare from bright lights at night. Opticians can advise how to deal with this and other health related issues that may arise from an eye-test.

So What Does The Law Say?

The police are allowed to stop a driver and test their eyesight if they have any reason to think that he or she cannot meet the legal standards required for driving, which are:
  • Drivers who need contact lenses or glasses to correct their vision must always wear them when driving.
  • Driving with uncorrected defective vision is an offence and there is a potential fine of £1,000 for those caught out. Added to that is the threat of 3 penalty points and possible disqualification for those found breaking the law.
  • Drivers should be able to read a number plate from a distance of 20.5 metres (which is about 5 car lengths) in good light. If a driver is asked to do this and cannot meet the required standard, they are committing an offence and as a result their insurance may be invalidated.

Mature Drivers

If you are around 50 years old, you may find you are beginning to struggle a little with eye-related issues. This is because as you get older, things like the glare from the sun or street lights can become increasingly problematic, and these changes commonly begin to become noticeable in middle age. Not only that, but it can take longer to refocus after you are briefly blinded by a strong light than it did when you were younger. If this affects you, sunglasses can help, and if possible you may want to avoid glare by not driving when it is likely to be a problem - late at night to avoid streetlamp glare and late afternoon to avoid low sunshine.

Self Assessment

What is very important for drivers of all ages is to not fall into the trap of self analysing. Changes in your vision may not be apparent to you, so it is imperative that you have your eyes tested at least once every two years by a professional and qualified optician and remember that just because you haven't noticed any changes in your vision, doesn't mean there haven't been any.

Specsavers Petition

Specsavers opticians hit the headlines on this subject when a leading House of Lords Peer and two of the UK's most respected TV motoring journalists rallied behind a petition they organised, urging the Government to clamp down on drivers who drive with uncorrected sight.

Fifth gear's Vicki Butler-Henderson, Driven's Penny Mallory and the Rt. Hon Earl of Caithness helped Specsavers deliver their petition, signed by 5,000 British motorists, to number 10 Downing Street.

The petition called for called for:

  • The compulsory production of a current eyesight prescription with any application for a driving licence
  • the compulsory re-testing of drivers' eyesight at regular intervals after a licence is issued
  • Increased roadside eye checks
  • Eye testing at the scene of an accident where possible
  • A law that demands that motorists carry spare corrective eyewear when driving.
Have regular eye tests in order to remain a safe driver, you will not only keep yourself safe but other drivers and pedestrians also.

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