A recent report by RSA into eyesight and driving found that road crashes caused by poor driver vision result in an estimated 2,900 casualties and cost £33 million per year.
It is estimated up to five million UK drivers would fail a number plate test if they had to take it again, but only 5,916 drivers had their licence revoked by the DVLA for failing to meet minimum eyesight standards in 2011. This may be because drivers don’t have to prove they have safe vision to drive. Instead the DVLA is reliant on drivers or third-parties to report vision defects, and there is no routine testing of driver eyesight at the scene of a crash by police. Even if drivers are tested using the number plate method, this can’t pick up on defects in visual fields.
Eyesight and driving are inextricably linked and good eyesight is critical to safe driving, and studies have shown that crash risk is heightened by poor vision.
Drivers with visual field defects, whether they are due to glaucoma, a retinal disease or cataract, have double the incidence of road crashes and traffic violations compared to drivers with a full visual field. Almost half of people with visual field loss are unaware of any problem with peripheral vision.
Contrast sensitivity and glare sensitivity can only be tested by medical professionals, but it is an important indicator of the ability to drive safely. If you have poor sensitivity, you may pass a number plate test easily in daylight, but in lower light acuity falls dramatically.
Calls to government
Brake, the road safety charity, has launched its Sharpen up campaign that calls for drivers to regularly visit their optician at least every two years to make sure their vision is fit for driving. It also calls on government to introduce a requirement for drivers to provide proof of a recent visit when applying for their provisional licence and every renewal after that.
Relying on drivers to regularly test themselves using number plate test doesn’t work. Not only are many drivers not doing this, but this method doesn’t test for visual fields, an important aspect of safe driving.
With a 300 year heritage, RSA is one of the world’s leading multinational quoted insurance groups. RSA has major operations in the UK, Scandinavia, Canada, Ireland, Asia and the Middle East, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe and has the capability to write business in around 140 countries.