UK researchers have highlighted that people have fewer reservations around driving without vision correction than other behaviours that impair driving – such as drink driving or texting while driving.
A study carried out by Leeds Beckett University’s Leeds Sustainability Institute found that drivers were less likely to wear vision correction when taking familiar or short journeys.
They were also more likely to leave their spectacles or contact lenses at home when the weather was good and there was less traffic on the road.
Study participants were more likely to opt for vision correction while driving on motorways, in poor weather conditions, late at night and when they were fatigued.
Dr Fiona Fylan, who specialises in health psychology and risk-taking, interviewed drivers with an average age of 45 who require glasses to correct their distance vision.
They reported having driven without their glasses at least twice in the past six months.
Dr Fylan said the results were both “astonishing and incredibly insightful.”
“While risky driving behaviours, like drink driving or using your mobile phone while driving, are seen as unacceptable, those involved in the study didn’t regard driving with uncorrected vision as serious or detrimental,” she shared.
Some drivers said they would continue to drive with uncorrected vision even though they did not meet the legal requirement for driving without their glasses, or they only just made the requirement.
Those who took part in the study said they thought eye care professionals should provide more advice to drivers around wearing spectacles while driving.
Clinical and regulatory officer at the AOP, Farah Topia, told OT that the ability to drive requires a number of mental and physical capabilities.
“Good vision is a crucial one of these that is essential for road safety. Eyesight is not always recorded as a factor at a road traffic accident but we know from studies that it has a detrimental impact on reaction times, and a number of tragic cases have also demonstrated that driving with poor sight is dangerous to the driver as well as others on the road,” she highlighted.
Ms Topia added that while driving with eyesight below the standard is illegal, the system in place to enforce this requirement is not adequate.
“The AOP advises everyone to have a sight test every two years and optometrists should use this as an opportunity to reinforce their advice. We are also campaigning to change the law so that all drivers have to prove that they meet the legal requirement when they apply for a licence and then every 10 years, at licence renewal,” she concluded.