The Optical Confederation is calling for tougher and more frequent checks on drivers’ eyesight. In the UK drivers’ eyesight is only checked before they take their practical driving test and they are not asked about their vision until they reach the age of 70. Before a person takes their driving test they must be able to read a number plate at a distance of 20 metres (for the new style number plate) or 20.5 metres (for the old style number plate). There afterwards the responsibility is on the driver to report to the DVLA if they believe that their vision no longer meets this requirement.

Given the importance of being able to drive with good vision, so that drivers do not put themselves and others at risk unnecessarily, the Optical Confederation believes that all drivers should undergo basic screening for distance and side vision, before they even get behind the wheel of a car. As changes in vision can occur gradually over a period of time and as such a driver may not realise they have a problem with their vision, drivers should also have their vision checked when they renew their licence every ten years. The NHS recommends that adults have their eyes tested every two years yet many drivers are failing to look after their eyesight.

Changes to the legal eyesight requirements have now come into force following the European Directive on Driving Licences. The distance number plate test is not an accurate method to assess whether drivers meet these tougher measures as it does not check a person’s peripheral (side) vision. The Confederation continues to call on the UK Government to introduce vision screening for all drivers to ensure they meet these requirements. This will also reassure drivers that they have safe vision to drive and that they meet the legal eyesight requirements.

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