Eyes on the road

OT  discusses Road Safety Week 2021 and advice from the DVLA about the importance of driving and vision this winter

car driving at night
Getty/ paseven

Is it too early to start talking about Christmas? Pre-pandemic, I would have stuck to my self-imposed rule; Christmas celebrations start on 1 December. But due to a lacklustre lockdown Christmas last year I’m throwing my rule book out of the window and embracing all the festive cheer and merriment I can get my mittens on.

Wrapping up warm I stepped outside about to take the bus to my first Christmas market of the year, when my friend called and offered me a lift in her car. The thought of driving to a venue in a warm cosy car seemed much more appealing than standing shivering at a bus stop. So I happily accepted.

As the winter nights draw in and it gets a little bit frostier outside the urge to drive can become harder to resist. So perhaps now is a good time to remind your patients about the consequences of driving with poor vision.

As eye care professionals you’re aware that when it comes to safety, driving and vision it is vital to have good eyesight, spectacles or contact lenses. Are your patients fully aware of the legal requirements for vision and driving and the importance of a sight test?

Last week, Road Safety Week (15-21 November) encouraged members of the public to become a ‘Road Safety Hero,’ making journeys safer for everyone. Driving and vision is an important ongoing message for optometrists to consider promoting during the winter months as seasonal changes such as darker nights and fog can impact a person’s vision when driving.

To highlight the importance of vision and driving during Road Safety Week deputy senior DVLA doctor, Dr Cathy Armstrong, spoke about why it’s important that drivers meet the vision standards required by law to drive. In the blog Armstrong recommends “regular eye tests, at least every two years, or more often if your optician advises this” and for those concerned about their vision “don’t wait for your next eye appointment – book a test with your optician as soon as you can.” 

She also encouraged drivers to take the 20-metre number plate test, revealing that “a survey by DVLA found that less than 50% of motorists are aware that they must read a number plate from 20 metres. That’s why we’ve launched a campaign to raise awareness of the 20-metre eyesight test. The number plate test is a simple and effective way to check if your eyesight meets the required standard for driving.”

The charity Brake, organisers of Road Safety Week, celebrated the efforts of the emergency services and those who police the roads. Sergeant Mike Templeman played his part in the awareness campaign by encouraging elderly drivers struggling with their eyesight to inform the DVLA. Templeman offered warning to the public, commenting that “if we stop people and we find that their eyesight has deteriorated, especially in the elderly, we can look at having their licence revoked or having medical licence through the DVLA.”

The DLVA issued further warning to the public, reported in Birmingham Mail, that drivers could be fined or receive three points on their licence if they don't check their eyesight. 

Before it gets to that point and drivers are stopped on the roads, as optometrists you can help inform the public of their options and help them through the process.

If you would like to raise more awareness about the importance of good vision for driving and promote the value of regular sight tests take a look at the AOP’s Don't swerve a sight test campaign. 

The AOP has a range of resources available to help assist your patients and inform them about the best steps to take if they are struggling with their eyesight.

If you’re looking to share content on your practice social media pages OT’s Driving in the dark video also offers patients some helpful tips if they’re struggling with their vision when driving at night.