Regular eye tests urged

Brake is the UK’s road safety charity. Sheffield Heeley MP, Meg Munn, has been awarded Brake and Direct Line’s Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month Award for her campaign to introduce regular eye tests for drivers.In 2009, Meg was contacted by constituent Joy Barnes whose niece Fiona Buckley was run over and killed while crossing the road in 2008 by a driver with defective eyesight. This moved Meg to start a campaign for driver eye tests to be carried out by qualified practitioners using a scientifically recognised method instead of the current limited number-plate test – and for drivers to be re-tested at least every 10 years, at the same time as applying for a new licence photocard.

The campaign also aims to raise awareness among drivers of the importance of getting their eyes tested at least every two years.In February 2011 the government announced proposals to make the current test even easier, by reducing the distance from which drivers have to read a number plate to just 17 metres. Read Brake’s response to the consultation. Meg responded by working with Brake to call on the government to abandon its proposals and listen to public demand for regular eyesight testing. During National Eye Health Week, June 2011, Meg secured a Parliamentary Debate on driver eyesight testing. Meg was disappointed with the response as the Minister defended current arrangements, although the debate helped to raise awareness of the issue among MPs.

Meg argues the cost of implementing regular, comprehensive eyesight tests would be minimal. However, the benefits would be great, providing reassurance that drivers meet minimum standards to drive safely and helping to prevent crashes and casualties, which are devastating to families and a huge cost burden on emergency services and the NHS.

During Road Safety Week 2011, coordinated by Brake, Meg carried out a media campaign urging drivers to consider whether their eyesight would meet the minimum requirements. She intends to continue to lobby the government until appropriate action is taken to ensure all drivers have the required standard of eyesight for driving on UK roads.

Brake’s top tips drivers on eyesight are as follows:
• Get your eyes tested at least every two years, even if you think your eyesight is perfect. Your eyesight can deteriorate without you noticing.
• If you notice deterioration, get tested straight away. This applies to all ages, but is especially important if you are over 50, when eyesight is more likely to deteriorate.
• If you are taking medication or suffer from any medical conditions, check with your doctor or optometrist if it could affect your driving or vision.
• If you need glasses or contact lenses:
• Never drive without them, and keep them clean. Keep a spare pair in your vehicle if you are prone to forget.
• Choose glasses with thin or no rims, which give you a greater field of vision.
• Choose glasses with anti-reflective coating, which can help reduce glare at night.
• If you wear glasses, keep a pair of prescription sunglasses in your vehicle.
• Avoid ‘night-driving glasses’. There is no evidence that they help and they may actually make vision worse.
• Avoid wearing tinted glasses at night-time or during bad weather.