National release

Motorists with poor vision still on the road despite expert advice

Our second Don’t swerve a sight test driving and vision campaign is asking for a change in the law to make roads safer

07 Nov 2018

  • Almost half of optometrists have seen a patient in the last month who continued to drive despite being told their vision was below the legal standard
  • Almost 3000 injuries on UK roads each year are estimated to be caused by drivers with poor vision
  • A quarter of Britons would do nothing if they thought a loved one’s vision wasn’t safe for driving
  • The Association of Optometrists’ (AOP) Don’t swerve a sight test campaign is calling for law change citing that UK regulation is ‘among the laxest in Europe’
  • Gillian Jones, whose father was killed by a driver with poor eyesight, is supporting the AOP’s call for motorists to face compulsory vision testing every 10 years

Almost half (44 per cent) of optometrists1 in the UK have seen a patient in the last month who continued to drive despite being told their vision is below the legal standard, a report by the AOP has revealed.

The findings come as pressure mounts on the government to change the law on vision requirements for motorists, following a series of high-profile road collision cases in which poor eyesight was a contributing factor. 

Under existing UK law, drivers must undergo an initial number plate test when taking a driving test, then complete a self-declaration for renewing their licence thereafter. This means a 17-year-old who can read a number plate from 20 metres away when they take their test, may continue to drive with no further checks for the rest of their life. 

The AOP says these laws are among the laxest in Europe and is calling for a change to the law that would require drivers to have a comprehensive vision check to prove their vision meets the legal standard when they first apply for the licence and then every 10 years thereafter, or more frequently after the age of 70.

The Don’t swerve a sight test campaign also reminds drivers that undergoing a sight test every two years is currently the best way to maximise their eye health and make sure they are road safe. Currently, an estimated 2900 injuries on our roads each year are caused by drivers with poor vision2

Gillian Jones, whose father, Ambrose Skingle, was killed by a driver with vision below the legal standard for driving, said: “I have two sons and my father was a big part of their lives. Dad taught them how to ride bikes and play golf. We had a family dinner together every Sunday. Life has never been the same. It was as if centre of our lives had been ripped out.

“I know some people don’t want to have a sight test because they don’t want the bad news that they have to stop driving. I’d like them to think of the consequences, both to themselves and to others. I think most people would feel awful knowing they were responsible for taking a life. Drivers have got to look at the bigger picture.”

As part of the AOP’s second Don’t swerve a sight test campaign – which falls ahead of Road Safety Week (19-25 November) – 2000members of the public  including 1300 regular motorists were also surveyed by the AOP to capture public mood. It shows that:

  • Around half (47 per cent) the public agreed the laws on vision for driving should be more rigorous – compared to just four per cent who believed they need to be relaxed
  • Of those who want more rigorous laws – half (49 per cent) believed a compulsory sight test should be part of a licence being granted and a quarter (26 per cent) wanted motorists to have a sight test at least every 10 years
  • Nearly nine in 10 (86 per cent) of regular drivers would be happy to have their vision checked every five years or more frequently
  • However, one in 20 (six per cent) motorists on the UK’s roads admitted they’ve doubted whether their own vision is good enough to drive yet have done nothing about it
  • Nearly a fifth (17 per cent) of regular drivers admitted they have never self-checked their own vision by reading a number plate as suggested by the DVLA’s recommendations
  • Shockingly, one in 10 (12 per cent) regular motorists would continue driving as normal if told their vision could not be corrected to meet the legal standard, while 42% would continue to drive in some capacity, such as cutting back on short journeys or only driving locally

A quarter (27 per cent) of the public would do nothing if they knew a friend or family member who continued to drive with poor eyesight

Optometrist and AOP Professional Advisor, Henry Leonard said:
  
"It is shocking that so many drivers are overlooking the importance of good vision. Sight loss can often be gradual, and people may not notice changes that could affect their ability to drive.

This campaign is about reminding drivers that regular visits to their optometrist are the best way to make sure they meet the legal standard for driving and help make our roads safer.”  

Members of the public and optometry profession can contact their MP to support the AOP’s call for a change to the law, with more information available at www.aop.org.uk/dontswerve.

Ends

High resolution images and the campaign video can be access in this Dropbox folder.

For more information, please contact Emily Campbell, Interim PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, emilycampbell@aop.org.uk or telephone 020 7549 2040.

Notes to Editors

Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 80% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit www.aop.org.uk

Ambrose Skingle 

Ambrose Skingle, 86, died after being hit by motorist Peter Cole, 87, in January 2012. Mr Cole was found to have vision below the legal standard at the scene and was only able to read a number plate by 7.5 meters away. He later admitted to making a false statement to obtain his driving licence despite knowing his vision was not fit for driving and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and a six-year driving ban by Chelmsford Crown Court.

Notes

1 The Voice of Optometry panel was set up and launched in 2017 by the AOP and conducted by Alpha Research. All qualifying AOP members with email addresses were invited to take part in the second survey from 27 February 2018. 1246 practising optometrists completed the online survey by the closing date of 4 April 2018.  

Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers by RSA Insurance Group plc, 2012.

3 Mortar London polled 2001 people on behalf of the AOP in October 2018. Of the 2001 surveyed, 1386 were car owners who drive regularly
 
4 DVLA – Driving Eyesight Rules