Fleet News

Driver safety: Is the UK turning a blind eye to vision testing?

By Julie Summerell, managing director, TR Fleet and DriveSecure

From ‘clunk click, every trip’ back in the 1970s to more recent drink-driving and mobile phone awareness campaigns, the Government makes huge investment into changing driver attitudes and improving safety on our roads.

However, one of the most fundamental aspects of driver safety is still overlooked – eyesight testing.

As Fleet News reported last month, UK road accidents due to poor vision cost an estimated £33 million last year, with 2,874 casualties.

Considering the NHS recommends eyesight testing every two years, and 100 adults start to lose their vision each day, the UK remains blind to one of the most obvious causes of road accidents.

One in five drivers in Great Britain put themselves and others at risk by failing to meet the legal vision standard required for driving and 5.5 million people with glasses or contact lenses admit to having driven without them.

The UK sits at the bottom of the European league table on tackling driver vision screening. We are one of only five EU countries with no requirement for reassessment of vision.

Most require testing at various intervals, including between one and five years in Slovenia if an eye condition is present.

Attitudes are starting to shift. Under changes introduced earlier this year, police have the power to take immediate action on drivers who cannot read a licence plate at 20 metres.

But this doesn’t go far enough and doesn’t consider other aspects, such as peripheral vision.

As a minimum standard, we should be moving towards an eye test before applying for a provisional driving licence, with a mandatory test every 10 years in line with photocard renewal, a system that is currently in place in Ireland.

When I met with road safety minister Stephen Hammond earlier this month to present our case for tougher eyesight testing, I was clear that education and awareness would be key to making a real impact, in addition to supporting fleet managers to comply with any potential changes.

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