The majority of fleets are not doing enough to ensure company car and van drivers have their eyesight tested regularly, research has suggested.
Having good eyesight is a basic requirement of safe driving, yet many organisations do not have policies in place for testing eyesight or promoting the importance of ensuring good vision.
It is possible to suffer vision reduction of 40% before noticing a problem; for this reason experts recommend eyesight testing at least every two years.
However, many drivers do not follow the advice; every year in the UK an estimated 12.5 million people who are due an eyesight test do not have one, according to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB).
The Fleet Safety Forum – a division of road safety charity Brake specifically for fleet managers working to manage their road risk – has surveyed fleet managers on their road risk management practices.
It discovered that four in 10 companies (42%) surveyed do not offer eyesight testing for drivers through a company scheme and more than half (56%) do not record when drivers last had their eyes tested.
Gradual deterioration over time
“These statistics are a great worry to us and alas also back up what we find in our own research,” said Suzanne Randall, corporate account manager at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare. “It is imperative that drivers have eyesight that is good enough for driving.”
Eyesight can deteriorate gradually over time, particularly for those over 40, and the only sure way to pick this up is through a regular eyesight test.
Randall added: “Eyesight requirements for driving are quite particular: peripheral vision is important, as well as the ability to refocus between near and far objects, such as the instruments on the dashboard and road signs in the distance.”
Insurance company RSA, which operates a fleet of 1,180 vehicles, offers its 7,000 employees access to free eyesight testing, which they are advised to take up every two years or more depending on the advice of their optician.
For employees with business cars, it is compulsory to have their eyes tested at least once every two years. RSA also pays for lenses and basic frames for employees that need them.
Dr Franziska Rauscher, senior researcher at the Department of Ophthalmology at Leipzig University Hospital, said: “Companies would benefit from organising regular, specialised professional eye testing for employees who drive.
“This should be tailored to the working environment of employees, incorporating a consultation on adequate correction where needed, to ensure their safety.
“These professional eye tests should be proactively provided by companies to assure best possible vision for each individual driver.”
Introduce eyesight policy
Research by Specsavers found that 54% of employers said they worry that some of their employees may drive when their eyesight isn’t good enough to do so.
“There is an easy solution and that is to have a policy to regularly test the eyesight of those that drive during the course of their work,” said Randall.
“We need to make our roads safer and this includes ensuring drivers have good enough eyesight to drive.”
She concluded: “Employers will automatically ensure the vehicle is fit for the road and we believe they should also ensure the driver is fit for the road, and this means ensuring their eyesight is good enough for driving.”
Advice on driver eyesight policies
• Introduce compulsory, comprehensive eyesight testing for all new employees who drive before they start work. This should be followed by compulsory testing every two years, increasing frequency to once a year for drivers over 50.
• Drivers should be told to report any change they notice in their eyesight, so they can have a full eyesight test immediately.
• In-house eyesight screening, while not an alternative to eyesight tests, can help to identify problems that arise in between tests. Employees can easily be trained to self-test using simple screeners.
• Your organisation should keep comprehensive, up-to-date records of employees’ eyesight and monitor any problems that are picked up.
• Employers should offer vouchers for glasses or lenses for staff which require them in order to carry out their work.
• Educate drivers on the ways eyesight can deteriorate and how this affects driving, and signs and symptoms they should look out for.