Half of all optometrists have seen a patient in the last month who continued to drive despite being told their vision was below the legal standard, potentially contributing to the 3,000 accidents on UK roads caused by bad eyesight every year, according to a new survey.
The report, carried out by the Association of Optometrists (AOP), also revealed that despite the blatant dangers of getting behind the wheel of a car with poor eyesight, a quarter of Britons would do nothing if they thought a loved one’s vision wasn’t safe for driving.
The results of the study have prompted the AOP to rolls out their 'Don’t Swerve a Sight Test' campaign, which calls for changes to UK law on the matter - which it describes as 'among the laxest in Europe' - and recommends comprehensive checks to prove vision meets the legal standard when people apply for a licence and then every ten years, or more frequently after the age of 70.
Gillian Jones' father, Ambrose Skingle, was killed by a motorist who lied about their eyesight to renew their driving licence, prompting her to add her poignant voice to the AOP's campaign and saying that 'life has never been the same' since her father died.
“I have two sons and my father was a big part of their lives," said Gillian. "Dad taught them how to ride bikes and play golf; we had a family dinner together every Sunday. Life has never been the same. It was as if centre of our lives had been ripped out.
“I know some people don’t want to have a sight test because they don’t want the bad news that they have to stop driving," Gillian added. "I’d like them to think of the consequences, both to themselves and to others. I think most people would feel awful knowing they were responsible for taking a life… People have got to look at the bigger picture.”
Under existing UK law, drivers must undergo an initial number plate test when taking a driving test, then complete a self-declaration for renewing their licence thereafter. This means a 17-year-old who can read a number plate from 20 metres away when they take their test, may continue to drive with no further checks for the rest of their life.
The AOP's survey has revealed that 47% of people think the laws on vision for driving should be more rigorous, 49% believed a compulsory sight test should be part of a licence being granted, and 26% wanted motorists to have a sight test at least every ten years, suggesting that there is substantial support for law change.
Despite this, figures also revealed that one in 20 admit they’ve doubted whether their own vision is good enough to drive yet have done nothing about it, while an astounding 12% of motorists said they would continue driving as normal if told their vision could not be corrected to meet the legal standard.
"It is shocking that so many drivers are overlooking the importance of good vision," said Optometrist and AOP spokesperson, Henry Leonard. "Sight change can often be gradual, and people may not notice changes that could affect their ability to drive.
"This campaign is about reminding drivers that regular visits to their optometrist are the best way to make sure they meet the legal standard for driving and help make our roads safer," he added.
Members of the public and optometry profession can contact their MP to support the AOP’s call for a change to the law, with more information available at www.aop.org.uk/dontswerve. Head to https://www.rac.co.uk/insurance/car-insurance/guides/driving-eyesight-requirements for more information.