Motorists should have eye test every ten years, experts warn
Motorists should be made to undergo eye tests every ten years, leading experts have said.
The Association of Optometrists (AoP) warned that current laws concerning vision requirements for drivers were insufficient.
They are among the most relaxed in Europe and involve no mandatory eye exam aside from the requirement to read a number plate on a parked vehicle during the practical driving test, meaning that a 17-year-old could continue to drive for the rest of their life with no further checks.
Motorists must tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if they have problems with their eyesight but their licence will continue to be renewed if they do not admit to having difficulties.
Seven people were killed and 63 were seriously injured in accidents on Britain’s roads last year when “uncorrected, defective eyesight” was a contributory factor, Department for Transport data shows.
Nine out of 10 optometrists believe the current rules do not go far enough, the AoP said.
More than a third have seen patients in the last month who continue to drive despite being told their vision is below the legal standard.
A separate poll of more than 2,000 road users found that 30 per cent have driven despite doubting their vision was adequate.
Only 40 per cent said they would stop driving if they were told their vision – even with glasses or contact lenses – was below the legal standard for driving.
Dr Julie Anne-Little, an optometrist and AOP board member, said Britain “falls behind many other countries” due to its reliance on self-reporting and the initial number plate test.
“Because sight changes can be gradual, often people won’t realise that their vision has deteriorated over time,” she said.
“This campaign is about reminding drivers that with a visit to their optometrist they can not only make sure they meet the standard but help make our roads safer.”
Natalie Wade, a 28-year-old bride-to-be, suffered fatal injuries when she was knocked down by a car driven by a partially sighted driver who had failed to declare his vision problems to the DVLA.
The accident happened as she was using a pelican crossing while shopping for her wedding dress near her home in Rochford, Essex in February 2006.
The driver, John Thorpe, 78, of Hullbridge, Essex was due to stand trial for causing death by dangerous driving but died before the case reached court. He was blind in one eye and had poor sight in the other.
Ms Wade’s family have campaigned for regular sight tests to be made compulsory for drivers.
The hairstylist’s aunt, Brenda Gutberlet, 63, from Canvey Island, Essex said: “We want the law changed so other families don’t have to go through what we have.
“How many more people have to die before our outdated laws on drivers’ medical fitness are changed?”
The Department for Transport insisted that current requirements were adequate, noting that Britain had some of the safest roads in the world.
A spokesman said: “All drivers are required by law to make sure their eyesight is good enough to drive.
“If a driver experiences changes to their eyesight or has a condition which may affect their driving they must make the DVLA aware of this.
“If you are unsure whether your eyesight meets the standards you should notify the DVLA and speak to an optician.”
The AOP has launched a Don’t Swerve A Sight Test campaign urging people to get tested every two years.
It has also sent its members a template letter urging them to lobby their local MPs to change the law.