The eyes have it

Calls for better eyesight regulation and testing for drivers

Have you had your eyesight checked recently?

Road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist is encouraging drivers of all ages to ensure they meet the minimum standard for driving.

In black and white

According to statistics form the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, around 3,000 fatal and serious injury collisions occur every year because of poor eyesight.

On top of this, official government statistics reveal that the two leading causes of car crashes are:

  • Driver/rider failed to look properly – 38%
  • Driver/Rider failed to judge other person’s path or speed – 20%

Out of date

GEM believes that the current driver eyesight regulatory system is not fit for purpose. They want to see the rules updated urgently. However, there have been calls for improvement for many years, yet little has changed for decades.

“We are concerned that there are too many people driving whose eyesight has deteriorated to a dangerous level.” So says GEM chief executive Neil Worth.

“Covid restrictions will have put many people off booking an eye test, but that is no longer a valid excuse.

“We urge everyone to prioritise safety and ensure they have a proper eye examination with an optician every two years. Eye tests allow professionals to identify and correct any problems, meaning the risks of driving are reduced and the road environment is safer.”

Time waits for no one

Eyesight, for most people, deteriorates over time, particularly from the age of 40. Unfortunately, these changes can be very subtle and take place over long periods of time. This means that most people do not realise any significant change. It’s only by having regular eye tests that any of us can be sure we still have the quality of eyesight needed to be safe behind the wheel. The crash facts and official statistics only serve to underline the physiology reality.

GEM represent the interests of many older drivers. They are keen supporters of  people staying independent and behind the wheel for as long as possible. But safety has to be the priority, whatever age we are.

Under the present regulations, it’s down to individual responsibility for drivers to declare themselves fit to drive. Responsibilities require practical actions, and getting regular eyesight tests is one of them.

“The problem is that we are unlikely to notice many of the changes to our vision,” adds Neil Worth. “It takes a professional examination to reveal changes to our visual acuity, peripheral awareness, eye coordination, depth perception, ability to focus and colour vision.

“That’s why having an eye test every two years is a key part of being a responsible driver, whatever your age, just to ensure there are no safety concerns about your vision and to deal with any issues at an early stage.”

Make it a habit

Eye tests are free to those aged 60 or over, as well as to those aged 16 to 18 and in full time education. For others, an eye test typically costs between £30 and £50.

It is important to realise that eyesight tests also provide further benefits. They also provide early signs of other health issues too.

For all of us, eye testing is and should be an important regular check up.  While regulations around official requirements for drivers may well need updating, the best way forward is to establish it as a normal part of basic health care. Teaching learners this, encouraging regular eye tests from a young age, is an important part of the process. It could save lives and make the roads that much safer for everyone.

Top tips for looking after your eyes

  • To be as safe as possible on the road as a driver, it’s vital to be sure that your vision is good enough.
  • If your vision has deteriorated, you need to ensure it is corrected by glasses or contact lenses as necessary.
  • Changes in vision can be so slow that you may not notice. That’s why it’s so important to let a professional give your eyes a thorough examination every two years.
  • Early signs that your sight may be changing include eye strain, unusual headaches and difficulty in seeing at night or when light conditions change
  • It’s easy to get an eyesight test at your local optician – it’s inexpensive and you may even qualify for a free test.

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