A new report commissioned by leading global insurer, RSA, has found that road crashes caused by poor driver vision cost the UK an estimated £33 million a year and result in nearly 2,900 casualties, with official tests to identify and rectify the problem in need of urgent reform.
The report, commissioned for RSA’s Fit to Drive campaign and launched at a Parliamentary event in Westminster, aims to raise awareness of the dangers of driving with poor vision and is calling for a change in UK law requiring:
• the current number plate test to be scrapped, as this does not provide an accurate assessment of a driver’s vision;
• all learner drivers to have their vision tested by a qualified professional prior to applying for a provisional driving licence; and,
• eye tests to be mandatory every ten years, linked to driving licence renewal, with drivers encouraged to voluntarily have their eyes tested every two years (in line with NHS recommendations).
RSA’s proposed changes to eyesight testing are estimated to generate net savings to the UK economy after the first year of introduction and increase to £14.4 million by year ten.
Adrian Brown, RSA UK & Western Europe CEO, said, “The report’s figures speak for themselves. If we simply make an eye test mandatory when getting your first driving licence and when renewing every 10 years we will save lives and reduce the strain on public finances.
“Wider understanding among politicians, health professionals, the police and insurers about the serious impact of poor eyesight on road safety is crucial and our Westminster roundtable event marks the start of what I hope will be a sustained commitment to working together to improve safety on our roads.”
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, the road safety charity, said: “This report gives an indication of how many violent and devastating casualties on our roads could be prevented through a simple eye examination. Being able to see clearly what’s in front and around you is fundamental to safe, responsible driving.
“That’s why we urge drivers to have an eye test at least every two years, even if you think your sight is fine. We also hope to see common sense winning through and the Government tightening up the rules on driver eyesight. To make our roads safer and ensure everyone is fit to drive we need a scientific eyesight test at the start of your driving career and compulsory re-tests at least every 10 years thereafter.”
At the Westminster event several MPs signed RSA’s Fit to Drive pledge, which outlines their support for the issue as well as urges others in the Government to do the same.
The pledge reads: “I have signed RSA’s Fit to Drive pledge to show my support for this important campaign, and will be urging my colleagues in Parliament to do the same.”