'Unsettling' driver eyesight survey results revealed

Sight Care supports Road Safety Week with patients’ concerns highlighting importance of eye examinations for motorists

paul surridge

A survey of independent opticians has revealed the most common complaint they hear from patients who drive is that they momentarily fall asleep at the wheel.

A poll of members of Sight Care, a support network for independent practitioners, found that 57% rated losing concentration and briefly falling asleep as the complaint they heard the most from their patients who drive.

Asked to rate the frequency of drivers’ most common eye-related complaints from 1–8, losing a contact lens and not having a spare pair of spectacles to help them see was ranked 7 and 8 by two-thirds (66%) of those polled.

The unsettling results have been revealed in the run-up to Road Safety Week (23–29 November). Sight Care is supporting the campaign and taking the opportunity to remind drivers to look after their eyes to stay safe on the roads.

Sight Care’s chief executive, Paul Surridge (pictured), said: “Poor eyesight can make driving very tiring, particularly as you get older. As our survey shows, we’re encountering too many patients who admit to losing concentration or falling asleep momentarily at the wheel. Others don’t have the back-up they need if they lose their contact lenses.”

Mr Surridge added: “It should hardly need pointing out that eyesight is a vital ability for drivers, which they need to check regularly as they age and, if necessary, strengthen with glasses or contact lenses. We think it’s time testing got more serious about this issue to support people as they get older."

Highlighting the vital role which eyesight plays in safe driving, the survey also showed that in the judgement of 94% of the 143 Sight Care practitioners polled in May, eye examinations should be a legal requirement for anyone taking a driving test.

And 96% felt that drivers over 60 years old should have a compulsory eye examination either every year, every two years, every five years or every 10 years. Of those, 58% thought drivers over the age of 60 should have compulsory eye tests every two years.

Mr Surridge concluded: “In the spirit of Road Safety Week, we’re urging people to get their eyes checked at their local independent optician for their own safety, and that of other road-users.”