Drivers warned of eyesight issues with calls for new law changes – ‘Not fit for purpose’

Dr Hilary discusses the risks for older drivers

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GEM Motoring Assist is urging all drivers to ensure they meet the criteria to drive safely. The road safety organisation is warning that the current driver eyesight regulatory system is not fit for purpose and needs to be updated urgently.

GEM is keen to support people who wish to stay behind the wheel for longer. 

However, it stresses the importance that safety has to remain the priority for all drivers.

Under the present regulations, it’s down to individual responsibility for drivers to declare themselves fit to drive.

Neil Worth, chief executive of GEM Motoring Assist, encouraged drivers of all ages to ensure they meet the minimum standard for driving.

He said: “Poor eyesight is linked to nearly 3,000 fatal and serious injury collisions every year.

“We are concerned that there are too many people driving whose eyesight has deteriorated to a dangerous level. 

“Covid restrictions will have put many people off booking an eye test, but that is no longer a valid excuse.

“We urge everyone to prioritise safety and ensure they have a proper eye examination with an optician every two years. 

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“Eye tests allow professionals to identify and correct any problems, meaning the risks of driving are reduced and the road environment is safer.”

Mr Worth added that most drivers are unlikely to notice any change in their eyesight.

According to the DVLA, drivers must be able to read a car number plate made after September 1, 2001, from 20 metres.

Minimum standards are more strenuous for lorry and bus drivers.

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At the start of the practical driving test, motorists have to correctly read a number plate on a parked vehicle.

If the driver cannot read the plate, they will fail their driving test and it will not continue.

Following this, the DVLA will be informed and their licence will be revoked.

When the motorist reapplies for their licence, the DVLA will ask them to have an eyesight test with the DVSA, which takes place at a driving test centre.

Mr Worth continued, saying: “It takes a professional examination to reveal changes to our visual acuity, peripheral awareness, eye coordination, depth perception, ability to focus and colour vision.

“That’s why having an eye test every two years is a key part of being a responsible driver, whatever your age, just to ensure there are no safety concerns about your vision and to deal with any issues at an early stage.”

Eye tests are free to those aged 60 or over, as well as to those aged 16 to 18 and in full-time education. For others, an eye test typically costs between £30 and £50.

Early signs that sight may be affected include eye strain, unusual headaches and difficulty in seeing at night or when light conditions change.

Vision changes can be so slow that people may not notice, hence why opticians and safety organisations urge people to get checked every two years.

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