Vision and driving: What’s legal and what’s safe?
Good eyesight is essential to good driving – and a legal requirement, too. According to the DVLA, drivers must by law be able to read a standard-size number plate from a distance of 67 feet, as well as having 6/12 visual acuity and an “adequate field of vision” to be able to drive safely. An eyesight test is a standard part of every driving test – but how many people’s vision deteriorates in the many years after they abandon their L-plates?
Recently, a survey by a motor insurance company Egg revealed that as many as one in six motorists on the road – equating to around five million people – would fail the eyesight test if they had to take it again. More than one in five drivers aged 55 or over had not had an eye test in the last five years, and nearly half of those who wear glasses to correct their vision said they regularly forgot to wear them when driving.
It’s easy to see why eyesight is such a vital component of safety on the roads – according to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, around 95 per cent of the information a driver uses is visual. It’s not just long or short-sightedness that can pose a danger – other long-term conditions, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration can also impact somebody’s ability to drive safely.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists has called for all drivers who wear glasses or other visual aids to have an eye test every year, as well as being required to carry a spare pair in the car at all times – something that is already law in some European countries. ‘Human sight deteriorates as part of the ageing process and police should carry out eyesight testing on drivers where appropriate,” said Christopher Bullock, chief executive of the IAM. “And there should be stiff penalties for anyone involved in a crash who has driven wilfully knowing their eyesight is defective.”
If this does become mandatory, it may lead to more people considering permanent vision correction rather than risk points on their licence for forgetting their glasses. However, while those who have had laser eye surgery no longer need to wear glasses to drive, it’s important to note that it is highly recommended not to drive for at least two days immediately after the surgery takes place. The procedure can cause blurred vision that usually fades quickly, but will certainly impair a person’s ability to drive while it affects them. Additionally, those who drive for a living are usually required to pass a test before they can return to work following surgical treatment.
The general recommendation, both from road safety experts and eyecare professionals, is for everybody to have their eyesight checked once per year. Not only does this ensure that motorists have adequate vision to drive safely, but it can also pick up a variety of conditions which, if identified early enough, can be treated to stop the effects of long-term deterioration.