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UK Drivers Urged to Sharpen Up Their Vision

UK drivers urged to sharpen up their vision

May 2011

In a further survey from the College of Optometrists a fifth of drivers admit to driving with poor vision. The College urge that the DVLA instigate regular vision testing for drivers over 40, which they say would be supported by three quarters of UK drivers.

 As the DVLA consultation into driving and vision testing came to a close on the 28 April 2011, new research backs the call on the DVLA to review current vision testing practice for drivers.

The College survey shows that16 per cent of drivers have not had an eye examination in two years or more, with a further four per cent unable to recall the last time they had a sight test. Two per cent admit to never having had an examination.

Despite this, the research reveals that more than three quarters of UK drivers (79 per cent) would support regular compulsory testing of drivers’ vision if it was introduced in the UK. The majority of people (46 per cent) think this should occur every five years.

Because of the higher incidence of visual problems in older people, and as research has shown that people drive knowing that their vision isn't as good as it should be, the College of Optometrists is recommending that all UK drivers over the age of 40 have a vision check every five years. It is recommended that this increases to every two years for those aged 60 and over.

Currently the regulations set by the DVLA specify that drivers have their vision tested upon taking their driving test and then again when they are at the age of 70. In 2006, the EU Parliament proposed that holders of commercial licences will have their eyes tested every five years and holders of private licences every ten to fifteen years. Each country within the EU state has until 2013 to translate the Directive into national law, and the DVLA is currently in consultation on the subject.

The current method of testing drivers’ vision requires the candidate to read a normal-sized number plate in good daylight, with glasses or contact lenses if worn, at a distance of 20m. However, this method is not equivalent to the new EU standards, partly because it is not operated in a controlled environment and the characters used are of variable legibility. The College of Optometrists is recommending a more standardised method of vision testing using a sight testing chart, or Snellen chart, as used by doctors and eye care professionals to measure visual acuity and ensure that drivers conform to the new EU standard.
Dr Susan Blakeney, Optometric Adviser to the College of Optometrists said: “So much information comes through your eyes when you are driving so it is worrying to learn that so many people drive knowing that their vision isn’t what it should be. We would urge the DVLA to instigate regular vision checks for all drivers over the age of 40, and drivers themselves to ensure that they have any vision problems investigated before getting behind the wheel. We hope that the implementation of the EU Directive will lead to more frequent, standardised tests of drivers’ vision.”

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