Written by James Murray-Jones
The road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist are calling on the government to introduce mandatory eye tests as part of the process for renewing driving licence photocards every 10-years.
GEM’s road safety officer Neil Worth, says “poor eyesight is linked to more than 3,000 fatal and serious injury collisions every year. We are worried that there are just too many people driving whose eyesight has deteriorated to an unacceptable level.”
Driver eyesight is currently only tested when someone qualifies for their full licence. The procedure requires them to read out a number plate at 20.5 metres (67 feet).
However, according to optometrist Felicity Gill, the current procedure is not fit for purpose. Gill highlights the fact that driving is not just about central clarity of vision. Common ageing changes like cataracts (clouding of the eye lens) can lead to a reduction in peripheral vision, an obvious problem when it comes to spatial awareness on the road.
Eyesight can deteriorate through “other common conditions including diabetes/diabetic eye disease, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration” according to Gill. Many conditions can be treated or delayed, so early detection of a problem is key.
Eye examinations are free for over 60s on a two-yearly basis, or more frequently if recommended by an optometrist. Alongside distance reading, they also test clarity and field of vision, using visual field machines.
With many people continuing to drive into their 80s and beyond, GEM suggest regular eye checks should become a legal requirement. Furthermore, today’s lifestyles – notably the use of VDU screens – places an increasing strain on the health of our eyes.
Given the increasing volume of traffic and distractions that all drivers now face, the requirement is all the more important
Earlier this year we reported on news that the Police were trialing roadside eye checks on drivers in the West Midlands, Thames Valley and Hampshire. The exercise was designed to collect data and the extent of poor eyesight problems.
GEM’s Neil Worth says visual acuity and field of view should be tested every 10-years, arguing it would “make our roads safer. They would also play a vital role in the early diagnosis of many other costly medical conditions, irrespective of driving.