New campaign to educate motorists on standards of vision for driving
The Is Your Vision Roadworthy? campaign has been launched to coincide with the early May Bank Holiday period
28 April 2023
Optical bodies have partnered with motoring organisations to launch a new public information campaign on the legal vision requirements for driving.
The Is Your Vision Roadworthy? campaign will aim to educate motorists about their legal obligation to ensure their sight is fit to drive, and will encourage routine eye tests to prevent their vision becoming a safety hazard.
The campaign, which was made possible by a grant from the Central Optical Fund, has been launched to coincide with the early May bank holiday from 28 April–1 May, when the volume of traffic is expected to peak.
Ahead of the official launch of the campaign, 23 out of 45 police forces in England, Scotland and Wales, conducted roadside vision screening between 27 February and 12 March, submitting data for 898 motorists.
Roadside vision screening involves asking motorists to read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres while wearing any eyesight correction worn at the time of driving.
The data was collated and analysed by Dr Carol Hawley, from the University of Warwick, and CARGY Research, who found that 2.2% of number plate tests resulted in failure.
Extrapolating the data across the active driving licence holders in the UK, campaign organisers said this suggests more than 900,000 British drivers would fail to meet the most basic eyesight standard for driving.
Men made up three quarters of those who failed the number plate test, while age was also a factor, with the average age of people unable to read a number plate from 20 metres being 69.3 years. The youngest driver to fail was 30, and the oldest was 90.
Of the drivers who failed the Is Your Vision Roadworthy? roadside screening, 85% had their licence revoked on the spot under legislation known as Cassie’s Law.
The screening campaign found that 42% of drivers undertaking the roadside vision screening had not had an eye test in the last two years.
The charity, Eye Health UK, estimated that over the Bank Holiday period more than half a million car journeys will be made by drivers whose vision falls below the legal limit. This could be due to an undiagnosed or untreated vision condition, or because the driver is not using a vision correction they have been prescribed for driving.
A third of those who failed the number plate test and had been prescribed corrective lenses were not wearing them at the time they were stopped.
Henry Leonard, AOP head of clinical and regulatory, called the findings “deeply concerning,” suggesting the figures “shine a spotlight on just how many people are taking to UK roads without meeting the legal vision standards for driving.”
“As optometrists we know that sight loss can often be gradual, with some changes that impact our ability to drive quite unnoticeable, but there are clearly a great many motorists who don’t recognise this or how poor vision might put them or other road users at risk,” Leonard continued.
He highlighted the AOP’s commitment to raising awareness of the importance of regular vision checks for driving, adding “we’re delighted to be working with partners on this campaign to reinforce the message to the public.”
The campaign will seek to remind motorists of the importance of ensuring roadworthy vision, and what the standards are for driving, as well as providing tips for visual comfort, and advice on retiring from driving.
Chief constable Jo Shiner, the National Police Chief Council’s lead for roads policing, said: “Personal responsibility is the starting point for safer roads. Making sure your eyesight meets the standards of vision for driving is really important, and something only you can do to keep yourself and all other road users safe while driving.”
Around 3000 people are killed or injured by a driver with failing eyesight every year in the UK.
Emma Damen, whose father, Jim Tassell, was killed by a driver with vision below the legal standard for driving, said: “I urge anyone who has concerns regarding their own eyesight or [that of] another driver, please get an eyesight test to confirm you are safe to drive.”
The public information campaign includes national roadside posters, media relation activity, a podcast and social media promotion. A dedicated website has also been launched.
Practices are encouraged to support the campaign using the promotional materials and social media hashtags, including: #IsYourVisionRoadworthy, #ThinkEyesEveryTimeYouDrive, and #RoadSafetyCheck.
Last winter, the AOP found in a survey of 1033 UK optometrists, that almost half reported having seen a patient in the prior month who continued to drive despite being told their vision was below the legal standard. Read more about the 2022 campaign and its findings here.
AOP members can access resources on this topic, including a downloadable leaflet for patients on Driving and vision standards, from the AOP website.