Articles Tagged ‘eyesight - Brake the road safety charity’

Advice for older drivers

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It is common for older people to suffer from medical conditions, slower reaction times and a reduced ability to multitask that can impair your ability to use roads safely, especially if you drive. This may be a gradual process, so you may not notice straight away that your driving is affected.

The older you are, the more important it becomes to take the greatest possible care on and around roads. Older people typically suffer worse injuries in crashes, and have lower survival rates, because their bones tend to be less strong and they may not respond to emergency treatment as well.

Drivers must renew their licence at age 70, and every three years after that, confirming to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that their eyesight meets current standards, and that they do not have any medical conditions that may affect their driving.

However, Brake advises older drivers to go further than this: ensuring you are fit to drive, and potentially deciding to stop driving if and when needed, is crucial to keeping yourself and other people around you safe.  Follow the advice below and ensure you keep up-to-date with changing road rules: refresh your knowledge by buying or downloading a current copy of the Highway Code.

Risks for older drivers

Eyesight

If you drive, you need to be certain that your eyesight is good. Many people suffer from deteriorating eyesight as they age, and eye diseases are also more common among older people.

While older drivers are less likely to speed, they are more likely to crash in built-up environments, such as at junctions, often due to a failure to see something and react in time. Poor eyesight can be a particular problem at night, as night-time vision begins to deteriorate from around the age of 50, so restricting your driving to daylight hours can be safer. It is also wise to get tinted glasses made to your prescription for driving on bright days, as older eyes are similarly affected by dazzling sunlight.

Getting professional eye tests at least annually – free in the UK to those aged over 60 – is very important. Don’t assume you’ll notice an eyesight problem – vision can deteriorate significantly without you noticing. As well as checking vision over distance, professional tests can also check for problems in your central or peripheral vision, and catch conditions before they get worse. It’s therefore vital for older drivers to get their eyes tested with an optician annually, or straight away if you think there might be a problem.

For more information, read our advice on eyesight.

Medication

If you are taking any medication, only drive if you are certain that it doesn't affect your ability to drive. It is an offence to drive, or attempt to drive, while unfit through over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure. If you’re advised, or the label says, not to drive if you feel sleepy or impaired, assume that the medication could affect your driving and don’t drive: it’s impossible to accurately judge whether you’re impaired. If you’re taking medication that can affect driving, stop your driving, not your medication: coming off some medicines could put you more at risk.

Hearing

Good hearing is important for driving, warning drivers of potential hazards or an emergency vehicle approaching. Hearing begins to deteriorate slightly from age 30-40, and the rate of deterioration increases as you get older. Older drivers should have hearing tests at least annually, and straight away if you notice any problems with your hearing.

Movement

Older people may suffer from joint and muscle stiffness, which can make it more difficult to turn in your seat to check blind spots or to make sure that the road is clear before reversing. In many cases, adjusting seat and steering column positions can help, along with extra blind spot mirrors and technological solutions such as power steering and automatic transmission. Doing 15-30 minutes of daily stretches and physical exercise can also improve your flexibility, range of motion and coordination.

Tiredness

Whatever your age, getting a good night’s sleep beforehand, and taking regular breaks while driving (of at least 15 minutes at least every two hours, preferably more), helps you stay alert and focused. You may also find it helps to avoid driving long journeys and at times of the day you’re most prone to drowsiness (like mid afternoon and late at night). It’s also important to know what steps to take if you feel tired at the wheel.

Time to stop driving?

OldLadyDrivingNo-one likes to feel that they are losing their independence or to worry that their quality of life may be affected if they no longer drive. However, when balanced against the risk of injuring yourself or someone else in a crash, you may reach a time when it’s a good idea to consider stopping driving.

If you think you may be beginning to lose concentration, have slower reactions, or lose your memory, or are feeling increasingly anxious about driving, consider discussing the subject with family members to see if they have any concerns; and make an appointment with your doctor to talk about your continuing fitness to drive. You might also find that having your driving assessed at a mobility centre can help you to make a decision.

If you decide to stop driving, you can still be active and mobile without relying on car travel. Public transport can be a cheap, easy, sociable and stress-free alternative. Pensioners are entitled to significant discounts, including free off-peak bus travel in England – see Age UK’s information on transport concessions for older people.

You can also call your local council and ask about any local community bus services you can use.

As well as protecting yourself and other road users, using buses or trains could save you money (no more road tax, insurance, maintenance costs, or petrol and parking costs) and help reduce pollution.

Campaign in your community

Retired people can make great campaigners, as they often have the experience, skills, patience and time to make a powerful difference in their community. If your community suffers from speeding traffic, a lack of pavements or safe crossing places, or limited public transport services, find out how to campaign in your community to make it a safer, healthier, more sociable place.

Updated September 2015

Brake calls on schools, communities and organisations to register now for Road Safety Week – and get free resources

28 March 2014

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk

Schools, community groups, employers and professionals are being urged to get involved in Road Safety Week 2014 (17-23 November), the UK's biggest road safety event, to help make streets and communities safer. The charity Brake, which coordinates the event, is encouraging educators, professionals and community leaders to go to www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk to get ideas on promoting safer road use and campaigning for safer roads in the Week, and register online for a free e-action pack.

Road Safety Week, now in its 18th year and supported by headline sponsors RSA and Specsavers, is a great opportunity for groups and individuals to team up and take action on road safety, and run activities to raise awareness and prevent needless casualties.

Everyone can access ideas plus free electronic resources and guidance to help them get involved at www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk. Anyone who registers to be part of the Week is emailed a free e-action pack with downloadable posters and advice and case studies of what others have done in previous years.

The Road Safety Week 2014 theme is 'look out for each other': raising awareness of the ways everyone can help protect one another on roads, especially the most vulnerable. Brake will particularly call on drivers to protect kids and adults on foot and bike by slowing down to 20 in communities and looking twice and taking it slow at junctions and bends. Read more. Participants in the Week can run an initiative on this theme or any other road safety topic.

Last year 7,795 community groups, schools and organisations registered to take part, running activities ranging from fundraisers, road safety workshops, to protests against fast traffic, to community speed checks, to poster design competitions, many in partnership with local authorities, emergency services, or other agencies.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, says: "Road safety is a critical issue for communities everywhere, so we're calling on schools, groups and organisations around the country to play their part in making streets safer. Road Safety Week is a perfect opportunity to take action on local road safety issues, by campaigning, raising awareness and making a difference – especially in relation to protecting the most vulnerable road users, like children. Our theme this year is 'look out for each other', calling on everyone to be considerate on roads, but especially calling on drivers to slow down and take care to protect people on foot and bike. Everyone can help get this vital message out, and make a big difference to their local community. Log on to the Road Safety Week website for ideas and inspiration, and to register for a free e-action pack to help you take part."

Read our press releases calling on specific groups to get involved:

Schools, colleges and nurseries
Employers and fleets
Emergency services
Road safety professionals
Families and communities
Runners and cyclists

Notes for editors

About Road Safety Week
Road Safety Week is the UK's flagship road safety event, coordinated annually by the charity Brake, and now in its 18th year. In 2014 it will take place 17-23 November, with headline sponsorship from RSA and Specsavers. Road Safety Week aims to raise awareness about the devastation of road crashes and casualties, and the part we can all play in making our roads and communities safer. It does this by encouraging grassroots involvement and promoting awareness-raising and educational messages. Each year it involves thousands of communities, schools, organisations and professionals across the UK running a wide range of road safety activities. www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk

About Brake
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (17-23 November 2014), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

About RSA Group
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. Focusing on general insurance, RSA has around 23,000 employees and, in 2013, its net written premiums were £8.7 billion

As a leading car insurer we have a natural interest in promoting safety awareness and reducing the number of crashes on our roads. In the UK we have been a partner of Brake since 2011 and we also undertake road safety campaigns in many of our businesses across the world.

About Specsavers

  • Specsavers was founded by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned opticians in the world. The couple still run the company, along with their three children. Their son John is joint managing director
  • Specsavers has more than 1,600 stores throughout the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Australia and New Zealand
  • Total revenue for the Specsavers Group was £1.7 billion in 2011/2012
  • More than 20 million customers used Specsavers globally in 2011/2012. As of end March 2012, Specsavers had 16,138,076 customers in the UK and 928,582 customers in the Republic of Ireland
  • Specsavers optical stores and hearing centres are owned and run by joint venture or franchise partners. Together, they offer both optical and hearing services under one roof.
  • Specsavers employs more than 30,000 staff
  • Specsavers was voted Britain's most trusted brand of opticians for the eleventh year running by the Reader's Digest Trusted Brands survey 2012
  • More than one in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers - 10,800,000 glasses were exported from the warehouse to stores in 2011
  • Specsavers was ranked No 1 for both eye tests and glasses in the UK
  • Specsavers sold more than 290 million contact lenses globally in 2011/12 and has more than a million customers on direct debit schemes. Specsavers' own contact lens brand - easyvision - is the most known on the high street
  • The hearcare business in the UK has established itself as the number one high street provider of adult audiology services to the NHS
  • Specsavers supports several UK charities including Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Sound Seekers, the road safety charity Brake, the anti-bullying charity Kidscape and Vision Aid Overseas, for whom stores have raised enough funds to build a school of optometry in Zambia and open eyecare outreach clinics in much of the country.

Brake concerned about suggestion of raising licence renewal age

3 March 2014

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk

In response to reports the Department for Transport may consider increasing the age at which drivers must renew their licence from 70 to 80, Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said:

"It is concerning the Department for Transport is considering raising the age for licence renewal: regulation that's in place for good reason. At this age, conditions that can significantly impair your ability to drive safely become much more common, so it's essential we have robust procedures to ensure older drivers are not inadvertently putting themselves and others in grave danger. Licence renewal prompts older drivers to check and self-certify they are fit to drive. Brake is calling on government to strengthen fitness to drive regulation to help prevent needless tragedies, such as through compulsory eyesight testing throughout your driving career and health checks for older drivers. Brake recommends older drivers visit their GP and have sight and hearing tests at least annually – or sooner if they notice a problem – to ensure they are fit enough to continue driving and not unwillingly putting lives on the line when they get behind the wheel."

Read about Brake's Sharpen up campaign to ensure all drivers' eyesight is safe to drive.

Brake
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (17-23 November 2014), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Brake joins forces with police to rid roads of defective driver vision

News from Brake
Monday 3 September 2018
 
Road safety charity Brake is teaming up with police forces in Thames Valley, Hampshire and West Midlands to run a month-long campaign on driver vision, revoking the licenses of those who don’t pass the 20m number plate check. Throughout September, anyone stopped by Road Policing Officers in these areas will be required to take the 20m number plate test, with those who fail having their licence immediately revoked. Data will be collected from each test and will be used to gain an improved understanding of the extent of poor driver eyesight on our roads, which is thought to be vastly underreported in Government statistics.
 
This activity is part of a wider campaign to encourage the public and the Government to take driver vision seriously. An estimated 1.5m UK licence holders have never had an eye test and crashes involving a driver with defective eyesight are thought to cause 2,900 casualties every year on the UK’s roads. However, the UK’s driver vision testing remains inadequate and antiquated, requiring only a 20m number plate check when taking your driving test and nothing else for the rest of your driving life – one of only five EU countries to have such low standards.
 
Brake, alongside Vision Express, is urging the Government to tighten up UK driver vision laws and make eyesight testing compulsory before the driving test and each time a driver renews their photocard license.
 
Commenting on the launch of the campaign, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said:
“It stands to reason that good eyesight is fundamental to safe driving, yet our current licensing system does not do enough to protect us from drivers with poor vision. It is frankly madness that there is no mandatory requirement on drivers to have an eye test throughout the course of their driving life, other than the disproven 20m number plate test when taking the driving test. Only by introducing rigorous and professional eye tests can we fully tackle the problem of unsafe drivers on our roads.”
 
“Partnering with the police on this campaign will help us understand the extent of poor driver vision in the UK, an issue where good data is lacking. This is the first-step on the road to ensuring that good eyesight is a given on UK roads – the public shouldn’t expect anything less.”
 
Sergeant Rob Heard, representing the police forces taking part in the campaign, said:
“All of us require good vision to drive safely on our roads - not being able to see a hazard or react to a situation quickly enough can have catastrophic consequences. The legal limit is being able to read a number plate at 20m, around 5 car lengths, however this is a minimum requirement and a regular eyesight test with an optician is a must if we are going to be safe on the road.”
 
“Since 2013, the Police have a new procedure – Cassie’s Law - to fast track notification to the DVLA should they find someone who cannot read a number plate at 20m in daylight conditions. Offending motorists will within an hour have their licence revoked and face prosecution. During September, we will be carrying out 20m number plate checks at every opportunity and those who fail will have their licences revoked. I hope we do not find anyone and everyone makes sure they are safe to read the road ahead.”
 
Jonathan Lawson, chief executive of Vision Express said:
“We believe official Government statistics on the impact of poor sight on road safety are the tip of the iceberg and we know the public feel the same as we do about tackling poor driver vision. A recent survey commissioned by Vision Express showed that 75% want a recent eye test to be mandatory when renewing a driving licence.”
 
“We fully support Brake in spearheading initiatives that encourage motorists to consider if their vision is fit to drive before they get behind the wheel. A vehicle driven by someone with substandard vision is a lethal weapon, it’s as simple as that. Deaths are occurring because some motorists are wilfully neglecting to get an eye test, putting lives in danger. That has to stop and we’re committed to working with Brake, the police and road safety organisations to put pressure on the Government to take action.”
 
[ENDS]
 
Notes to editors:
 
  • You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.
  • You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye.
  • You must also have an adequate field of vision - your optician can tell you about this and do a test.

Cassie’s Law

  • The test must be conducted in good daylight with glasses or corrective lenses (if required), however if the individual was not wearing glasses or lenses at the time of the incident (even if they are normally needed) then the test should be carried out without the glasses or corrective lenses.
  • Brake survey– more than 1.5 million UK drivers (4%) have never had their eyes tested
  • RSA Insurance report – study estimating that poor vision causes 2,874 casualties a year
  • ECOO report – Cyprus, France, the Netherlands, Norway, UK only European countries with number plate self-test
  • Vision Express poll - 75% want a recent eye test to be mandatory when renewing a driving licence
 

Charity urges government to make driver eyesight tests compulsory

Survey shows overwhelming public support

Thursday 21 August 2014

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk 

Brake, the road safety charity, is calling on the government to introduce compulsory regular eyesight testing for drivers, as a survey with Specsavers and RSA Insurance Group shows strong public support. Almost nine in 10 (87%) are in favour of drivers having to prove they have had a recent sight test every 10 years, when they renew their licence or photo card. Research indicates this change in the law would significantly reduce the estimated 2,900 casualties caused by poor driver vision each year [1].

The survey shows why government action is needed, with a quarter (25%) of drivers admitting they have not had their eyes tested in more than two years – despite research showing you can lose up to 40% of your vision before noticing the difference [2].

Many drivers are also failing to respond to warning signs in regards to their vision: one in five (19%) have put off visiting the optician when they noticed a problem. In addition, a shocking one in eight drivers (12%) who know they need glasses or lenses to drive have done so without them in the past year.

Brake, Specsavers and RSA's survey of drivers also found: (full results below)

  • More than 1.5 million UK drivers (4%) have never had their eyes tested;
  • One in eight (12%) have not had their eyes tested for more than five years; and
  • Of the 54% of UK drivers who believe they don't need glasses or lenses to drive, one third (33%) have no way of knowing this for sure, having not had an eyesight test in over two years.

The only measure currently in place to ensure driver vision satisfies minimum legal standards is the number-plate test carried out from 20 metres away before driving tests, and occasionally at the roadside if police suspect an eyesight problem. This does not test visual field or contrast sensitivity, both of which are important to safe driving, nor is it a totally accurate measure of visual acuity (vision over distance).

Following their driving test, a driver may never need to produce any further evidence that they can see well enough to drive. It is estimated up to five million UK drivers would fail a number-plate test if they had to take it again [3].

Brake is urging the government to introduce a requirement for drivers to prove a recent, professional eye test when applying for a provisional licence, and at least every 10 years thereafter. It's estimated this would save the public purse at least £6.7 million a year by preventing crashes [4].

Brake urges all drivers to make sure their vision is up to scratch by having a professional sight test at least every two years, following expert advice, and always wearing glasses or lenses if they need them. See Brake's advice below.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "Compulsory regular eyesight testing for drivers is a common sense, lifesaving move. Clearly the public agrees that the government needs to act to tackle the alarming number of drivers taking a lax approach to their eyes. Making sure your vision is up to scratch is crucial to safe driving, and though it may seem there are plenty of excuses to put off going to the opticians, none is good enough when it comes to putting people's lives at risk. If you drive, it's not just your own health you are jeopardising by neglecting your eyesight, but the lives of those around you. That's why it's vital for drivers to get their eyes professionally checked at least every two years – eyesight can deteriorate rapidly without you noticing."

Mark Christer, Managing Director of Personal Insurance at RSA, said: "We want far more rigorous checks that drivers' eyesight meets the minimum standards. The UK's 'number-plate test' is a relic of the 1930s and it's no wonder so many other EU countries have introduced more modern testing. It is time we did too.

"Put simply, if you're not sure whether you are fit to drive, you could be seriously endangering yourself and other road users. The limitations of our current system mean many people could be doing just that without even knowing it."

Dr Nigel Best, Specsavers' clinical spokesperson, said: "The stats are quite alarming, it's important that we all recognise the importance of regular eye examinations and the role that they play in keeping both drivers and pedestrians safe on the roads. Currently eye sight is only tested once, on the day of the driving test. It is then the driver's responsibility to check whether their vision remains above the legal standard. Because eyesight deteriorates gradually over time, the only way a driver can be 100% certain that they remain both legal and safe is to have regular eye examinations."

Responding to Brake's campaign, Dr Susan Blakeney, clinical adviser to the College of Optometrists, commented: "It's vital that both drivers and non-drivers are fully aware of their eye health as it can be very easy for people not to realise their eye sight is worsening, particularly over the age of 40. Drivers need to ensure that they are able to see vital road signs and other road users clearly to avoid putting themselves and fellow road users in danger. Raising awareness of this as an issue is very important.

"Having regular sight tests will not only ensure that people can see as clearly and comfortably as possible, but will also detect early signs of eye disease, which may not yet be affecting the person's sight. All drivers have a responsibility to ensure they are fit and legal to drive every time they get behind the wheel."

Read about Brake's Sharpen up campaign. Tweet us: @Brakecharity, hashtag #SharpenUp. Read the survey report.

Case study
Natalie Wade, 28, from Rochford, Essex, was killed by a partially sighted driver in February 2006. She was knocked down on a pedestrian crossing, along with her mother, Christine Gutberlet, by 78 year old John Thorpe. Christine survived, but Natalie suffered severe brain damage from which she died in intensive care on Valentine's Day. The bride-to-be was shopping for her wedding dress when she was hit.

Driver John Thorpe was blind in one eye and had 40 defects in the other, but had not declared his sight problems to the DVLA. He died of natural causes before his trial could be completed. The inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing.

Natalie's family have been campaigning for changes in the law to prevent similar tragedies. Natalie's aunt, Revd Brenda Gutberlet, says: "Natalie was a wonderful, bubbly young woman, full of life and laughter. She was lovely to be around. The years since her death have been a rollercoaster, for Natalie's parents and for all her family and friends. It's hard to put into words what it has been like.

"Natalie's death, like so many on our roads, was completely avoidable. The question every driver should ask before they get behind the wheel is: am I fit to drive today? But not everyone is honest with themselves. To get behind the wheel of a vehicle unable to see shows a disregard for the lives of others, and it can't be right that we still allow drivers to do so."

Brenda's MP, Rebecca Harris, is supporting the family's campaign. Responding to the report, she said: "These survey results are genuinely shocking. It's clear public awareness of how important this issue is remains frighteningly low. We need drivers to see getting behind the wheel without regular eye tests or without wearing the prescription lenses they need as being as irresponsible as drink-driving."

Facts
Poor vision heightens crash risk [4], causing an estimated 2,900 road casualties at a cost of £33 million in the UK every year [5].

Vision problems are very common – 74% of people in the UK wear glasses or contact lenses, or have had laser eye surgery [6]. Long- or short-sightedness is the most common [7], but several health conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, cataract and glaucoma, can also cause serious damage to eyesight. These conditions are more common in people aged over 50, but can affect younger people too. Changes in eyesight can be gradual, and it is possible to lose up to 40% of your vision before noticing it [8].

Vision can be affected by a number of defects only identifiable by a professional eye examination. These include problems seeing things in your central or peripheral vision, known as visual field defects, which can be caused by illnesses such as glaucoma, retinal disease or cataract. Drivers with visual field defects have double the incidence of road crashes and traffic violations as drivers with a full visual field, and almost half are unaware of the problem [9].

At present, drivers in the UK are required to read a modern car number plate (made after 1 September 2001) from 20 metres away [10]. However, this does not test for visual field and contrast sensitivity, both of which are important to safe driving.

The number plate test is only carried out when someone takes their driving test, plus it may be conducted by police at the roadside if they suspect an eyesight problem. This means that following their driving test, a driver may never need to produce any further evidence that they can see well enough to drive. Drivers aged over 70 have to declare when renewing their licence that their eyesight meets minimum legal standards, but do not have to provide evidence of this.

It is estimated up to five million UK drivers would fail a number-plate test if they had to take it again [11].

Some countries already have more stringent systems in place to regulate driver eyesight. In the US, a number of states, such as California, issue restricted licences indicating that the driver is required to wear glasses or lenses to drive, if the vision examination shows this to be the case. If they are then stopped by the police and are not wearing glasses or lenses, they can be immediately penalised [12].

Brake's advice
If you drive, regular visits to the opticians are essential to ensure your eyesight meets legal standards and you're not putting yourself and others at risk. You should get your eyes checked by an optician at least every two years or straight away if you notice any problems. Don't be tempted to put it off – most vision problems are easily corrected, and the sooner you know the problem, the sooner it can be fixed.

Going to the optician needn't be expensive and may be free – eye sight tests are free in the UK if you are under 16, over 60, claiming certain benefits, or have certain medical conditions. Check the NHS website to see if you qualify. Many high street opticians also run promotions offering free or cheap tests. If you regularly use computer screens at work, you are entitled to ask your employer to pay for your eye tests.

If your optician or GP mentions any problems with your vision or health conditions that could affect it, let them know if you drive and ask if your vision is at risk of falling below minimum safe standards. Visit www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving to find out what conditions must be reported.

If you need glasses or lenses you must always wear them when driving, even on short journeys. Keep a spare pair of glasses in your vehicle if you're prone to forget them.

Calls for government action
Brake calls on the government to introduce a requirement for drivers to provide proof of a recent, professional eye test when applying for their provisional licence, to ensure all new drivers meet appropriate standards.

Brake is also campaigning for compulsory regular eye tests for drivers throughout their driving career. Brake proposes that drivers should have to produce evidence of a recent eye test when renewing their licence photocard every 10 years. It's been estimated this would save the public purse at least £6.7 million a year by preventing crashes [13].

The government should also raise awareness among drivers about the importance and benefits of getting eyes tested at least every two years or straight away if you notice a problem. This could include reminders in communications from the DVLA, such as tax disc renewal letters.

About the report
The survey results, released today (Thursday 21 August 2014) consisted of 1,000 drivers and was conducted by Surveygoo. Read the report.

Full results
Q1: If you require glasses or lenses for driving, do you always wear them while driving?

  • 36% don't need glasses or lenses for driving, and have had an eyesight test in the past two years
  • 18% don't need glasses or lenses for driving, but haven't had an eyesight test in the past two years
  • 41% need glasses or lenses for driving, and always wear them
  • 3% need glasses or lenses for driving, but have driven without them once or twice in the past 12 months
  • 2% need glasses or lenses for driving, but have driven without them numerous times in the past 12 months

Q2: When did you last have an eyesight test by an optician?

  • 50% said in the last year
  • 24% said between one and two years ago
  • 8% said between two and three years ago
  • 5% said between three and five years ago
  • 5% said between five and 10 years ago
  • 3% said more than 10 years ago
  • 4% have never had their eyes tested

Q3: How regularly do you usually get your eyesight tested by an optician?

  • 26% said once a year at least
  • 40% said every two years
  • 14% said every three to five years
  • 2% said every five to 10 years
  • 6% said only if they notice a problem
  • 12% said never or hardly ever

Q4: Have you ever noticed problems with your vision but put off visiting the opticians?

  • 8% said yes, because they were worried about the cost of an eye exam, glasses or contact lenses
  • 6% said yes, because they were busy
  • 3% said yes, because they were worried they would find something seriously wrong
  • 3% said yes, because of other reasons
  • 2% said yes, because they were worried it would mean they couldn't continue driving
  • 81% said they'd always immediately booked an eye test when noticing vision problems, or they'd never noticed problems with their vision

Q5: How often do you check your vision using the number plate test?

  • 22% do this at least every six months
  • 17% do this annually
  • 10% do this every two years
  • 24% do not do this regularly, but have done it at least once since passing their driving test
  • 26% have not done the number plate test since passing their driving test

Q6: Do you think driving test candidates should have to provide proof of a recent, full eyesight test by an optician, which accurately assesses distance and peripheral vision and checks for other vision problems?

  • 67% said yes
  • 33% said no

Q7: Should drivers have to prove their vision meets minimum legal standards for safe driving by providing evidence of a recent sight test when they renew their driving licence or licence photocard?

  • 87% said yes
  • 13% said no

Q8: Do you think opticians and GPs should be obliged to let patients know if their vision or health conditions mean they are falling below legal requirements for safe driving?

  • 94% said yes
  • 6% said no

Q9: Do you think opticians and GPs should be obliged to inform the DVLA if one of their patients who drives has a vision or health condition that means they fall below minimum legal standards for safe driving?

  • 76% said yes
  • 24% said no

Brake
Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaigns, community education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

RSA
With a 300-year heritage, RSA is one of the world's leading multinational quoted insurance groups. RSA has major operations in the UK & Western Europe, Scandinavia, Canada and Latin America and can write business in around 140 countries in total. Focusing on general insurance such as motor, home, pet and commercial cover, RSA has more than 21,000 employees serving 17 million customers worldwide. In 2013 its net written premiums were £8.7 billion.

Since 2011, RSA's 'Fit to Drive' campaign has worked to highlight the important issue of eye health and driver safety in the UK. http://www.rsagroup.com/ 

Specsavers

  • Specsavers was founded by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned opticians in the world. The couple still run the company, along with their three children. Their son John is joint managing director
  • Specsavers has more than 1,600 stores throughout the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Australia and New Zealand
  • Total revenue for the Specsavers Group was £1.7 billion in 2011/2012
  • More than 20 million customers used Specsavers globally in 2011/2012. As of end March 2012, Specsavers had 16,138,076 customers in the UK and 928,582 customers in the Republic of Ireland
  • Specsavers optical stores and hearing centres are owned and run by joint venture or franchise partners. Together, they offer both optical and hearing services under one roof.
  • Specsavers employs more than 30,000 staff
  • Specsavers was voted Britain's most trusted brand of opticians for the eleventh year running by the Reader's Digest Trusted Brands survey 2012
  • More than one in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers - 10,800,000 glasses were exported from the warehouse to stores in 2011
  • Specsavers was ranked No 1 for both eye tests and glasses in the UK
  • Specsavers sold more than 290 million contact lenses globally in 2011/12 and has more than a million customers on direct debit schemes. Specsavers' own contact lens brand - easyvision - is the most known on the high street
  • The hearcare business in the UK has established itself as the number one high street provider of adult audiology services to the NHS
  • Specsavers supports several UK charities including Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Sound Seekers, the road safety charity Brake, the anti-bullying charity Kidscape and Vision Aid Overseas, for whom stores have raised enough funds to build a school of optometry in Zambia and open eyecare outreach clinics in much of the country.

End notes
[1] Fit to drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers, RSA Insurance Group plc, 2012
[2] World Glaucoma Day, International Glaucoma Association and Royal National Institute for the Blind, 2009
[3] "Millions of motorists are driving blind", Daily Mail, 2011. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-144678/Millions-motorists-driving-blind.html 
[4] Detailed cost-benefit analysis of potential impairment countermeasures: research in the framework of the European research programme IMMORTAL, SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research, 2005
[5] Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers, RSA Insurance Group plc, 2012
[6] Britain's eye health in focus, College of Optometrists, 2013
[7] SixthSense Opticians Survey, YouGov, 2011
[8] World Glaucoma Day, International Glaucoma Association and Royal National Institute for the Blind, 2009
[9] Incidence of visual field loss in 20.000 eyes and its relationship to driving performance, Archives of Ophthalmology, 1983
[10] Driving eyesight rules, DVLA, 2014
[11] "Millions of motorists are driving blind", Daily Mail, 2011. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-144678/Millions-motorists-driving-blind.html 
[12] International vision requirements for driver licensing and disability pensions: using a milestone approach in characterization of progressive eye disease, Alain Bron et al, 2010 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2999549/ 
[13] Fit to drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers, RSA Insurance Group plc, 2012

Driver advice: eyesight and health

Sharpthumb

Drivers can pledge to – get their eyes tested at least every two years, or straight away if they notice a problem, and wear glasses or lenses at the wheel if they need them. They can pledge to never drive on medication that affects driving.

Everyone can pledge to – look out for friends and loved ones by ensuring they only drive if they're fit for it.

If you drive, it’s probably the most complex and dangerous tasks that you’ll do on a regular basis, so it is vital your eyesight and general health is up to the task. Poor vision, ill health, some medications or stress can significantly affect your ability to drive safely, putting lives at risk.

Learn more:Try out Brake’s 'Sharpen up' interactive resource, sponsored by Specsavers, to see the importance of regular eye tests for drivers.

Sharpen up: driver eyesight

eyesight1Your eyesight can deteriorate significantly without you realising it – it’s possible to lose 40% of your vision before noticing [1]. That’s why it’s vital for drivers to get their eyes tested with an optician at least every two years, or straight away if you think there might be a problem. You must also notify the DVLA of any conditions that affect both eyes.

The law says you must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres to drive, so you have a responsibility to make sure this is the case. However, the ‘number plate test’ only checks your visual acuity (vision over distance), and not your visual field or contrast sensitivity – both important for safe driving – so it should never be used as a substitute for a professional test.

If you need glasses or lenses, don’t drive without them. In the UK, doing so is punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 and a driving ban. If you are prone to forget, keep a spare pair of glasses in your vehicle just in case.

Your health

It is your responsibility to notify the DVLA if you develop a condition that could impair your driving. Failure to do so can result in a fine and driving ban or prosecution if you cause a crash. If you suspect you have developed a condition, seek medical advice immediately. Check the DVLA’s guidance on health conditions and driving for advice.

Brake advises that older drivers get at least annual health checks, and ask the doctor’s advice on their fitness to drive. As an alternative to driving, older people are entitled to free off-peak bus travel across the UK.

Medication

NotADrop-PillsIt is an offence to drive, or attempt to drive, while unfit through medication. If you are taking medication, check the label or information leaflet to see if it could affect your driving. If the label warns that your driving could be affected, or it could make you drowsy, or not to drive if you feel drowsy, err on the side of caution and don’t drive: it is impossible to accurately gauge yourself if you’re impaired. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure.

Never drive if the label or a health professional recommends that you don't, or says you could be affected, or if you feel drowsy or slow.

If your medication affects your driving, stop driving, not your medication – make arrangements for alternative transport, or if you need to drive seek an alternative medication. In some cases, stopping your medication could pose additional risks, including while driving.

Natalie’s story

Natalie Wade, 28, from Rochford, Essex, was killed by a partially sighted driver in February 2006. She was knocked down on a pedestrian crossing, along with her mother, Christine Gutberlet, by 78 year old John Thorpe. Christine survived, but Natalie suffered severe brain damage from which she died in intensive care on Valentine's Day. The bride-to-be was shopping for her wedding dress when she was hit.

Driver John Thorpe was blind in one eye and had 40 defects in the other, but had not declared his sight problems to the DVLA. He died of natural causes before his trial could be completed. The inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing. Natalie's aunt, Revd Brenda Gutberlet, said: “Natalie's death, like so many on our roads, was completely avoidable. The question every driver should ask before they get behind the wheel is: am I fit to drive today? But not everyone is honest with themselves. To get behind the wheel of a vehicle unable to see shows a disregard for the lives of others, and it can't be right that we still allow drivers to do so."

[1] World Glaucoma Day, International Glaucoma Association and Royal National Institute for the Blind, 2009

[2] The contribution of individual factors to driving behaviour: implications for managing work-related road safety, Health and Safety Authority, 2002

Page updated June 2015

Driver eyesight

sharpthumbtext

Key facts

  • Road crashes involving a driver with poor vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties and cost £33 million in the UK per year [1];
  • In the UK, about three quarters of adults are estimated to make use of corrective eyewear or have had laser eye surgery [2];
  • In 2011, 5,916 drivers had their licence revoked for failing to meet minimum eyesight standards. [3]
  • Eyesight can decline gradually and unnoticed, with people losing up to 40% of their visual acuity without being aware of deterioration [4].

Introduction

Good eyesight is a basic requirement for safe driving. Poor vision increases the risk of collisions due to the driver’s inability to recognise and react in time to a hazard or the behaviour of other road users. [5]

However, poor vision is believed to be massively underreported in government crash causation data due to the difficulty in determining if eyesight was to blame. Some casualties are likely to occur because drivers are unaware they have a vision problem and have neither corrected it nor reported it to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). Untreated eye conditions can occur gradually over time. In extreme cases, someone can lose up to 40% of their vision without being aware they have a problem [6].

Estimates from the Royal College of Optometrists suggests 2-3% of drivers have vision below the minimum standard [7]. 

Legal framework

In the UK, the law requires drivers to be able to read a modern car number plate, from 20 metres away [8]. Drivers must inform the DVLA if their vision (with glasses or contact lenses if needed) is below 6/12 (0.5) on the Snellen scale, or their visual field is less than 1200, or they suffer from certain medical conditions. [9]

Lorry and bus drivers are required to meet higher vision standards. They must have vision of at least 6/7.5 (0.8) in their best eye and at least 6/60 (0.1) in the other eye. If they require glasses or contact lenses, their corrective power must be no more than (+) 8 dioptres. Lorry and bus drivers must have a horizontal field of at least 70o left and right, and 30up and down, with no visual defects within the central 30o. [10]

Determining eyesight through the ‘number plate’ test is one aspect of the practical driving test, and may be conducted by the police at the roadside if they suspect an eyesight problem. This test is not required at any other time than these, so following the driving test, a driver may never be required to show any authority any evidence that their eyesight is acceptable for driving. Drivers older than 70 have to declare that their eyesight meets minimum standards when renewing their licence, but do not need to provide any evidence to the DVLA to prove this is so. [11]

Driver eyesight testing is not automatically carried out by police at the scene of a fatal or serious crash, although guidelines state that eye health should be ‘considered’ by the investigating officer [12]. Furthermore, it is not possible to test driver eyesight if a driver is dead or being treated for serious injuries, making it difficult to determine whether poor vision is a contributory factor in many cases. Even if the number plate test is carried out, its capability for assessing driver vision is limited. It only tests an individual’s vision over distance (visual acuity), and is not even a fully accurate and reliable evidence of that. The driving test does not assess visual field or sensitivity to contrast or glare, which can also have a significant impact on driver performance. [13]

Brake is campaigning for the law on driver vision to be strengthened, to require drivers to prove to the DVLA they have had a recent, professional vision test when they take their driving test and be required to have regular tests during their driving life on a regular basis thereafter, and to prove their vision has recently been “passed to drive” through a vision test every 10 years when renewing their licence photocard.

Support Brake’s campaign for regular vision tests for all drivers and sign our Pledge to get your eyesight tested if you drive.

Eye testing

Because eyesight can decay without noticing, experts recommend having a professional eye test at least every two years, or straight away if a problem arises. [14]

A professional eye test checks vision over distance, as well as other visual defects, including problems seeing things in the central or peripheral vision. Visual field defects can be caused by illnesses such as glaucoma, retinal disease or cataracts.

Drivers with visual field defects have double the incidence of road crashes and traffic violations compared to drivers with a full visual field, and almost half people with visual field loss are unaware of the problem [15].

But despite this, many drivers do not get their eyes tested regularly or even at all.

In 2011, 5,916 drivers had their licence revoked by the DVLA for failing to meet minimum eyesight standards [16]. 

There is evidence people do not get their eyes checked enough. A Brake survey found one in four (25%) UK drivers haven’t had a vision test in the past two years, and 4% (the equivalent of more than 1.5 million licence holders [17]) have never had their eyes tested [18]. In a separate study by the College of Optometrists, one in 20 people aged above 40 said they had not been for a sight test for at least 10 years or could not recall when they last went [19].

Going to the optician needn’t be expensive and may be free:

  • Eye sight tests are free in the UK if you are under 16, over 60, claiming certain benefits, or if you have certain medical conditions [20];
  • In Scotland, eyesight tests are free for everyone [21];
  • Employers who require their workers to regularly use computer screens for significant periods are obliged to pay for their eye tests on request, under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 [22];
  • Employees who drive for work may also have arrangements in place with their employers for free or discounted eye tests.

For those who are not entitled to free tests, many high street opticians run promotions offering free or cheap tests.

SharpenUp-aug14

Vision problems

Vision problems are common. It has been estimated that almost three quarters (74%) of the UK population either use glasses or contact lenses, or have had laser eye surgery to correct their vision [23]. Long- or short-sightedness are common conditions affecting eyesight in the UK, and can affect anyone at any age.[24] [25]

Several health conditions can cause serious and sometimes permanent damage to eyesight. These conditions are more common in people aged over 50, but can affect younger people too.

Some of the most common conditions are listed below:

Cataract:This is when a clouding develops in the lens of the eye. Depending on its severity it can cause glare, short sightedness, double vision, and in severe cases, blindness. Cataracts are very common in older people: more than half of people aged 65 and over have some cataract development [26]. Often it is safe to drive with contacts and it is not a legal requirement to inform the DVLA if the driver meets the minimum standards for driving. [27]

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): A disease resulting in damage to the retina, causing loss of the centre of your vision. It can occur in one or both eyes. It is often possible to slow down AMD with medical treatment, so it is vital to have frequent eye tests to catch this disease in the early stages. AMD is the most common cause of poor sight in people over 60 [28].

Glaucoma: A condition that damages the optic nerve and causes complete blindness if left untreated. The most common form is chronic glaucoma, which develops slowly and painlessly, so the sufferer will not usually notice there is a problem until vision is significantly impaired. It is therefore vital to have frequent eye tests to catch this disease in the early stages. Acute glaucoma, where the condition comes on suddenly and painfully, leading sufferers to seek immediate treatment, is much less common. Glaucoma causes permanent damage, but if treated early enough, vision loss can be kept to a minimum. Glaucoma is very uncommon in people under 40 but becomes more common with increasing age [29]. Drivers with glaucoma must notify the DVLA and inform them of their condition. [30]

Double vision (diplopia): A variety of underlying causes or conditions can cause a person to see two images of a single object either some or all of the time. It is usually possible to cure this condition with treatments ranging from eye exercises to surgery [31]. Drivers who develop diplopia must not drive and must immediately inform the DVLA [32]

Other health conditions and factors can affect eyesight, including [33]:

  • Diabetes: Sufferers are at higher risk of eyesight problems and in some cases it can lead to blindness, this should be reported to the DVLA;
  • Heart disease: Can lead to loss of vision, visual field defects, or double vision, drivers with these symptoms should inform the DVLA and avoid driving where possible;
  • Migraines: Can cause vision disturbances, including partial loss of vision, double vision, blurriness and seeing flashing lights;
  • Tiredness and some medication:These can cause eyesight to become blurred or otherwise poor; and
  • Ageing: Vision begins to deteriorate more rapidly at approximately 50 years of age, particularly night-time vision. [34]

Learn more: Visit the DVLA website for a full list of medical conditions that must be reported. 

 

 


End notes

[1] Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers, RSA Insurance Group plc, overview available on the Road Safety Observatory, 2012
[2] Britain’s eye health in focus, College of Optometrists, 2013
[3] Eyesight and driving, Road Safety Observatory, 2013
[4] Assessment of fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals, DVLA, 2016
[5] Eyesight and driving, Road Safety Observatory, 2013
[6] Assessment of fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals, DVLA, 2016
[7] Britain’s eye health in focus, College of Optometrists, 2013
[8] Road Traffic Act (1988), gov.uk, 1988
[9] Driving eyesight rules, DVLA, 2016
[10] Ibid
[11] Eyesight testing: parliamentary debate, Hansard, 2011
[12] Road Death Investigation Manual, National policing improvement agency, 2007
[13] Fit to Drive, PACTS, 2016
[14] Vision and Hearing, NHS, 2014
[15] Incidence of visual field loss in 20,000 eyes and its relationship to driving performance, Archives of Ophthalmology, 1983
[16] Eyesight and driving, Road Safety Observatory, 2013
[17] Driving licence holding and vehicle availability, Department for Transport, 2016
[18] Driver eyesight survey, Brake & Specsavers & RSA, 2014
[19] Britain’s eye health in focus, College of Optometrists, 2013
[20] Am I entitled to a free NHS eye test? NHS Choices, 2016
[21] Your guide to free NHS eye examinations in Scotland, Scottish Government, undated
[22] Working with display screen equipment, Health and Safety Executive, 2013
[23] Britain’s eye health in focus, College of Optometrists, 2013
[24] Short sightedness (myopia), NHS Choices, 2015
[25] Long sightedness , NHS Choices, 2016
[26] Age-related Cataracts, NHS Choices, 2016
[27] Assessment of fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals, DVLA, 2016
[28] Age-Related Macular Degeneration, NHS Choices, 2015
[29] Glaucoma, NHS Choices, 2016
[30] Assessment of fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals, DVLA, 2016
[31] Double vision, NHS Choices, 2014
[32] Assessment of fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals, DVLA, 2016
[33] Ibid
[34] Supporting safe driving into old age: a national older driver strategy, The Older drivers’ task-force, 2016

Page last updated: November 2016

Driving for Zero

Campaigning for zero tolerance of impaired driving

Driving for Zero is Brake's campaign for zero tolerance of impaired driving. It tackles issues relating to alcohol and drugs calling for "none for the road". It also tackles driver tiredness, poor vision and other impairments relating to health. 

One in eight deaths on British roads still involves a driver over the alcohol limit [1], and in 2015 arrests for drug driving soared after a new law enabled police to arrest people who tested positive to illegal and some legal drugs. Many more drivers are impaired by tiredness, poor vision and ill health.

What are we calling for?

Driving for Zero aims to save lives through evidence-led, legislative interventions, including:

  • a lowering of the drink drive limit to an effective zero tolerance level across the UK
  • an extension, to Scotland and N. Ireland, of the England and Wales law prohibiting drug driving
  • compulsory eyesight tests for drivers
  • rigorous enforcement of laws relating to impairment, including driving hours, and tough penalties for offenders

We are also working to

  • Tackle impairment within commercial fleets, including driver health checks and technology that prevents and warns of impaired driving.
  • Educate law-abiding drivers about how to avoid low-level driver impairment, which can also cause crashes

 Take action

Visit our Driving for Zero campaign pages

 

Driving for Zero: facts and campaign updates

Key facts

Vision and ill health – I don’t really have a specific ‘ill-health fact’ bar one for sleep apnoea:

  • Road crashes involving a driver with poor vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties and cost £33 million in the UK per year [1].
  • Eyesight can decline gradually and unnoticed, with people losing up to 40% of their visual acuity without being aware of deterioration [2].

Fatigue:

  • Drivers at 6am are 20 times more likely to fall asleep at the wheel than at 10am [3].
  • About 40% of fatigue-related crashes involve commercial vehicle drivers, often in the largest vehicles on our roads that can cause the most harm in a crash [4].  

Alcohol/Drugs:

  • In 2014, 240 people in Great Britain were killed in crashes where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit, largely unchanged since 2011 [5].
  • Impairment by illegal or medical drugs was officially recorded as a contributory factor in 62 fatal road crashes and 259 crashes resulting in serious injuries in 2015 in Britain [6].

Driver distraction:

  • Drivers who use phones, either hands-free and hand-held, have been found by researchers to be four times more likely to be in a crash resulting in injuries than drivers not distracted [7].
  • A recent survey by Brake and Direct Line revealed a third of drivers admit to eating at the wheel and one in 10 suffered a near-miss because they were distracted by food while driving [8].

Campaign Updates

Charity welcomes tougher penalties for mobile phone use behind the wheel, 1/3/2017

 

Return to our driving for zero campaign page or visit our Driving for Zero campaign pages on these themes and more

Alcohol & Drugs 

Phones and devices

Tiredness

Vision and ill health    

End Notes.

[1] Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers, RSA Insurance Group plc, overview available on the Road Safety Observatory, 2012

[2] Assessment of fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals, DVLA, 2016

[3] PACTS, Staying awake, staying alive: the problem of fatigue in the transport sector, 2014

[4] Flatley, D. & Rayner, L. et al, Sleep-Related Crashes on Sections of Different Road Types in the UK (1995–2001), 2004

[5] DfT,Reported road casualties in Great Britain: Estimates for accidents involving illegal alcohol levels: 2014 (final) and 2015 (provisional),  2016

[6] Department for Transport, 2016, Reported road casualties in Great Britain 2015, table RAS50001

[7] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005

[8] Eating at the Wheel, Brake and Direct Line Survey, 2016

Driving for zero: vision and ill-health

Vision Express are proud to sponsor this campaign.

CAMSlider grey sharpenupHaving good eyesight is essential to safe driving. Yet some drivers fail to get their eyes tested regularly, some going years or even decades without checking their vision is up to scratch. Others put themselves and others in danger by driving without their glasses or lenses. Poor vision is estimated to cause 2,900 road casualties every year.

Currently, drivers of cars, vans and motorbikes are only required to have their eyesight checked once, when they take their driving test, by reading a number-plate – a method that doesn't accurately measure vision over distance, and fails to check peripheral vision or other vision problems. Beyond this, when they hit age 70, drivers must simply declare their vision meets legal requirements. We believe this is grossly inadequate. Read more about driver eyesight. and try out Brake’s 'Sharpen up' interactive resource to see the importance of regular eye tests for drivers.

A person’s fitness to drive can also be affected by ill-health. Some long and short term illnesses can result in reduced driving capability, as the driver experiences deterioration in mental and/or physical capacity due to either the illness or the medication prescribed to treat it. 'Driver or rider illness or disability, mental or physical' is estimated to have contributed to 2,289 road crashes and 121 road crashes resulting in fatalities in 2015. 

The Driver & vehicle licencing agency (DVLA) publishes a list of medical conditions that can affect driving capabilities, including those conditions that require the driver to alert the DVLA of their diagnosis before getting behind the wheel. In some cases medical practitioners will inform their patient that they are unfit to drive and advise them to inform the DVLA, it is then the individual's responsibility to do so. 

What are we calling for?

We need the Government to act to improve defective driver vision on our roads, by:

  • Making eyesight testing compulsory before the driving test. This must replace the current 20m licence plate testing that fails to account for peripheral vision and the driver's sensitivity to light;
  • Making eyesight testing compulsory when a driver renews their photocard license (every ten years);
  • Raising awareness of the importance of regular eyesight tests, at least every two years, by providing reminders e.g. on motorway gantries and DVLA vehicle tax documentation. 

Drivers also have a role to play:

  • If a driver requires contact lenses or glasses to correct their vision, these should be worn at all times behind the wheel;
  • Drivers should have their eyesight tested every two years, even if their vision appears to have remained the same;
  • If a driver notices anything wrong with their vision they should have an eye test straight away;

Take action

 

Campaign news

Brake backs calls for changes to how we are deemed "fit to drive" after inquiry finds that  crash that killed six people could have been prevented, 08/12/2015
Charity welcomes General Medical Council's strengthening of guidelines on reporting medically 'unfit' drivers reporting medically 'unfit' drivers
, 25/11/2015 
Thought-provoking 'Sharpen up' interactive resource launched, 21/08/2015
Charity urges government to make driver eyesight tests compulsory, 21/08/2014
Campaign calls on drivers to sharpen up, as survey reveals many fail to get sight tested, 06/08/2013
Brake reaction: thousands of casualties caused by poor driver vision, 02/11/2012
Brake campaign briefing on driver eyesight, 02/11/2012
Optical professionals encouraged to support Road Safety Week, 26/10/2012
Brake responds to DVLA consultation on changes to driver licensing laws, 24/02/2012
Brits take their eyes off the road, 01/02/2012
Meg Munn MP wins road safety award for campaign on driver eyesight, 05/01/2012
Proposals to weaken driver eyesight test criticised by Brake and bereaved family, 31/03/2011
Brake response to government consultation proposing to make number-plate test easier, 07/03/2011

VE Small

DVLA eyesight awareness campaign not enough to tackle issue of poor driver vision

News from Brake
Monday 23 July 2018
 
 
The DVLA has today launched a new national eyesight awareness campaign reminding drivers of the need to regularly check their eyesight. All drivers must, by law, meet the minimum eyesight standards at all times when driving - including being able to read a number plate from 20 metres.

Brake, the road safety charity, has been working with Vision Express through the ‘Driving for Zero’ campaign, to raise awareness of the dangers of poor eye health and to call for more to be done to tackle the issue of defective driver vision.
 
Commenting, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said:
 
“Any campaign to remind drivers to check their eyesight is welcome, however, awareness raising falls far short of tackling the true problem of poor driver vision, where a change in legislation is clearly required. Brake is calling for the law to be strengthened, to require drivers to prove to the DVLA they have had a recent, professional vision test when they take their driving test; and be required to have regular tests during their driving life on a regular basis. It should be obvious to all that the ability to see clearly is fundamental to safe driving and so we urge the Government to act to address the shortfall in the law and introduce mandatory eye tests for drivers now.”
 
“At present, driver eyesight is only checked through a 20-metre license plate reading before the driving test, after which a driver may never again be required to prove that their vision is fit for driving. With eye specialists stating that the 20-metre test is inadequate in assessing driver vision, and research showing someone can lose up to 40% of their vision without being aware, it is time for mandatory eye testing to be introduced.”
 
Commenting,Jonathan Lawson, CEO at Vision Express said:
"It's a positive first step to see the DVLA is spearheading a public awareness campaign to encourage drivers to take their eye health seriously - something Vision Express has been campaigning for. It is estimated that as many as 1.5m UK licence holders have never even had an eye test and road crashes caused by poor driver vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties. However, the 'number plate' test was introduced over 80 years ago before the Second World War and eye testing has advanced significantly since then. The NHS recommends people should have an eye test every two years, so we would encourage the DVLA to remind drivers that whilst passing the number plate might be the legal limit, the Government's own advice is to have a full eye health check with a qualified optometrist." 
 
[ENDS]
 
 
Notes to editors:
 
 
About Brake
Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.
We do this through national campaignscommunity educationservices for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.
Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.
 
Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Meg Munn, MP for Sheffield Heeley, December 2011

MunnMSheffield 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 (see case study below).

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.

Over the past two years, Meg has lobbied government, asking questions in Parliament and leading debates. The campaign has received support from national organisations including Brake, Eye Health Alliance, Specsavers and The Optical Confederation, who recognise the evidence that the current regime is inadequate in protecting the public from drivers with defective eyesight [1].

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 responseto 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. Read more.

During National Eye Health Week, June 2011, Meg secured a Parliamentary debateon 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 has also asked Road Safety Minster Mike Penning several questions in Parliament. In September Meg askedif he would conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the replacement of the number-plate test with a comprehensive eye test by a qualified practitioner when taking their driving test and at 10 year intervals. The Minister responded by stating that the government has no plans to do so.

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 [2].

During Road Safety Week 2011, coordinated by Brake, Meg carried out a media campaignurging drivers to consider whether their eyesight would meet the minimum requirements, including through an interview on BBC Radio Sheffield and coverage in the Sheffield Star and Sheffield Telegraph.

Meg 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.

Julie Townsend, Brake campaigns director, said: "As a charity that supports families devastated by road deaths and injuries, we recognise how vital it is to ensure all drivers have good eyesight. Being able to see clearly is fundamental to safe, responsible driving. We hope to see common sense winning through: to make our roads safer we need a scientific eyesight test carried out at the start of your driving career and regularly throughout it. We would like to thank Meg for her continued hard work pushing this vital issue."

Meg Munn MP said: "I'm delighted to have been awarded Road Safety Parliamentarian of the month. Having your eyes tested is such a simple thing, and we know it saves lives. I'd encourage all drivers to have their eyes tested regularly."

Case study

Fiona Buckley, 43, was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, so spent much of her adult life in a wheelchair. She was a bubbly person who loved nothing more than chatting to people. She worked in the city centre Shop Mobility Service and the Royal Hallamshire Hospital as a welcomer. In her younger days Fiona was an accomplished swimmer and later became an avid photographer and scrabble player. Her family describe Fiona as a generous and courageous spirit.

On 6 December 2008, Fiona was crossing the road with her friend Kay Pilley, 46, walking just behind. Witnesses said that driver Raymond Hampshire, 87, did not attempt to overtake them or brake. He ran straight into Fiona and Kay as they were approaching the other side, and Fiona was thrown over his car. She suffered a major head injury and broke her pelvis, spine and leg. She died in hospital six weeks later from multi-organ failure. Kay suffered head and knee injuries. She could not remember what happened.

Police tested Hampshire's eyesight and he could not read a car number plate from the required distance of 20.5 metres. He was later found to have cataracts in both eyes which had probably been there for 18 months. A doctor said it would give him "foggy or hazy" sight which could have rendered Fiona almost invisible to him. He also suffered from macular degeneration, which blurs the central vision. With his right eye he could only see from six metres what people with good vision can read from 24 metres.

Hampshire admitted causing death by careless driving. However, the judge decided not to punish Hampshire for killing Fiona. He was given just three penalty points.

Fiona's Aunt, Joy Barnes from Sheffield, said: "Fiona's death hit us all hard. Hampshire should not have been on the roads with such poor eyesight and it is a travesty that nothing is done to make sure that drivers meet a minimum standard of sight. If this driver had been made to have a sight test to keep his licence then Fiona would still be with us."

Brake's advice for drivers on eyesight:

  • 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.

Brake's factsheet on driver eyesight

End notes:
[1] See Eye Health Alliance, 2011
[2] ibid

Older drivers

Older people make up an increasing proportion of the populations of developed nations and consequently an increasing proportion of the driving population. In Europe, the number of people aged over 65 is projected to double between 2010 and 2050 [1]. In the UK, the number of drivers aged 70 or older increased 38% from 2002 to 2013 [2].

Research does not indicate that there is a specific age at which all drivers become unable to drive safely [3]. People age differently and someone at 70 years of age may be fitter, more alert and active then someone else aged 60 years or younger. However, ageing eventually brings about a general deterioration in health and physical ability, as well as changes in cognitive performance, which can all affect driving [4]. This may be a gradual process, so people won't necessarily notice straight away if their driving is affected.

What are the risks?

Research shows that drivers aged 60 or over are no more likely to be involved in crashes than other drivers, although crash involvement rates increase from age 80 [5]. Drivers aged 60-69 actually have less than half the crash rate than drivers aged 20-29 [6]. This is likely to be because older drivers tend to be far less likely to take risks such as driving too fast or while distracted [7]. This helps to compensate for any deterioration in health and driving performance, such as slower reaction times.

However, in a crash, the risk of a person aged 60 or older being killed, whether in a vehicle or on foot or bicycle, is more than double that of a younger person [8]. This is because older people’s bodies are more fragile, so they are more likely to suffer life-threatening injuries. They are less likely to recover from injuries or respond to emergency treatment, due to less physical strength and a greater risk of subsequent infections or other medical complications [9].

What happens as we age?

For most people as we age, our general health and fitness, eyesight, hearing, reaction time and physical mobility will begin to deteriorate. For example, tests have shown that reaction time in response to hazards increases with age [10].

Below are some of the most common age-related problems that may affect the safety of older drivers.

Eyesight

Eyesight deteriorates gradually with age. It is possible to lose up to 40% of your vision before noticing a problem [11], so it is important for drivers of any age to get regular eye tests, at least every two years, but especially important for older drivers as they are more likely to develop vision problems. Most medical conditions that affect eyesight, such as cataract or glaucoma, are more common in older people [12]. Brake therefore recommends that older drivers get their eyes tested annually, or straight away if they notice a problem.

Poor eyesight can be a particular problem at night. For every decade past age 25, drivers need twice the brightness to see properly, therefore by age 75 some drivers may need 32 times the brightness they did at age 25 [13]. Older drivers are also more susceptible to glare and take longer to recover from being dazzled. Recovery time from glare increases from average two seconds at age 15 to nine seconds at age 65 [14].

Learn more: Read our fact page on driver eyesight.

Hearing

Good hearing is important for driving, warning drivers of potential hazards or an emergency vehicle approaching. Hearing begins to deteriorate slightly from age 30-40, and the rate of deterioration increases as you get older. By the age of 80 most people have significant hearing problems [15].

Movement

Older people often suffer joint and muscle stiffness, which may affect how easily they can turn their head and body to look round when reversing or checking blind spots [16]. In many cases, adjusting seat and steering column positions can help, along with extra blind spot mirrors and technological solutions such as power steering and automatic transmission [17]. There is also some evidence that daily basic stretches and exercises can improve flexibility and range of motion for older drivers [18].

Health

Drivers with certain chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, are at higher risk of causing crashes [19]. These illnesses are more common in older people. Older people are also more at risk from dementia, which severely impairs driving as the disease progresses, although driving impairment may not be apparent in the early stages [20].

Medicines

As various health conditions become more prevalent with age, many older drivers will be taking over-the-counter or prescription medication. Many medications can impair driving, for example by causing drowsiness and affecting concentration [21].

Learn more: Read our fact page on driving on drugs or medication.

Junctions

Older drivers are over-represented in crashes at junctions, and more likely to be involved in “failed to look” crashes [22]. This is thought to be because older drivers are less able to judge the speed of oncoming vehicles [23], and may also be due to problems with eyesight and reduced visual field [24].

What is the law on older drivers?

Drivers must renew their licence at age 70, and every three years after that [25]. To renew their licence drivers must confirm to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that their eyesight meets current standards, and they do not have any medical conditions that may affect their driving. No formal medical check or eye test is required for this, but Brake recommends that older drivers do seek regular medical advice (see below). The DVLA recommends that older drivers consider stopping driving if they begin to lose concentration, have slower reactions, or begin to lose their memory.

Professional truck and bus drivers must re-apply for their licence, along with medical proof of physical fitness, at age 45 and every five years after until they reach age 60. At age 60 they must re-apply every year [26].

How older drivers can stay safe:

Medical checks

To be confident they are fit and healthy enough to be on the road, older drivers should visit their doctor at least once a year to discuss whether they are fit enough to continue to drive. They should also have eyesight and hearing tests at least annually and straight away if they notice any problems with their vision or hearing.

Alternative modes of transport

Some older drivers may be reluctant to give up driving as they feel they do not have any other alternatives for getting around, and that stopping driving will affect their quality of life [27]. However, public transport could prove to be the easiest, cheapest option for many older people. Pensioners are entitled to significant discounts on public transport, and at some times of the day travel is free. Using buses or trains rather than a private car will mean the driver no longer has to worry about costs including road tax, insurance, maintenance costs, petrol and parking costs, and they will also be cutting their carbon footprint. Many communities offer community transport buses which are able to pick people up directly from their doorsteps [28].

Brake campaigns for greater investment in safe, affordable and reliable public transport as a key measure to ensure older people (and everyone else) can be active and mobile without relying on car travel.

Learn more:Read our fact page on sustainable and active travel.

Vehicle design

If older people wish to continue driving, they should choose newer vehicles with the latest crash protection features and highest safety ratings. Crashes in older vehicles are far more likely to be fatal as these vehicles have less advanced crash protection [29]. Added to the increased likelihood for older people to suffer serious injuries in a crash due to their physical frailty, this means older vehicles can be dangerous for older drivers.

[1] The greying of the baby boomers: A century-long view of ageing in European populations, EuroStat, 2011

[2] Driving licence holding and vehicle availability, Department for Transport, 2014

[3] Older drivers policy paper, RoSPA, 2010

[4] Key facts: older drivers, Road Safety Observatory, 2014

[5] The licensing and safety of older drivers in Britain, Accident Analysis & Prevention, 2013

[6] Reported road casualties Great Britain 2013, Department for Transport, 2014, table RAS30025

[7] Older drivers' attitudes to distracted driving, Braunschweig University of Technology, 2011

[8] Reported road casualties Great Britain 2013, Department for Transport, 2014, table RAS30002

[9] Key facts: older drivers, Road Safety Observatory, 2014

[10] The hazard perception ability of older drivers, University of Queensland, 2008

[11] January is glaucoma awareness month, Glaucoma Research Foundation, 2014

[12] A-Z eye conditions, Eyecare Trust, undated

[13] Older drivers: a literature review, Department for Transport, 2001

[14] Older drivers: a literature review, Department for Transport, 2001

[15] Causes of hearing loss, NHS Choices, 2013

[16] Older drivers: a literature review, Department for Transport, 2001

[17] Older drivers: a literature review, Department for Transport, 2001

[18] Positive Effects Of Exercise On Mature Drivers, The Hartford And MIT AgeLab, 2014

[19] Long-term chronic diseases and crash responsibility, INSERM, 2014

[20] Older drivers: a literature review, Department for Transport, 2001

[21] The Incidence of Drugs and Alcohol in Road Accident Fatalities, Transport Research Laboratory, 2000

[22] Why do older drivers have more 'failed to look' crashes? Transport Research Laboratory, 2012

[23] Drivers over the age of 75 struggle to gauge the speed of oncoming vehicles, University of Greenwich, 2013

[24] Why do older drivers have more 'failed to look' crashes? Transport Research Laboratory, 2012

[25] DVLA’s current medical guidelines for professionals: Age (older drivers), DVLA, 2014

[26] DVLA’s current medical guidelines for professionals: Age (older drivers), DVLA, 2014

[27] Older drivers policy paper, RoSPA, 2010

[28] Public transport and concessions, Age UK, undated

[29] How Vehicle Age and Model Year Relate to Driver Injury Severity in Fatal Crashes, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2013

November 2014

Pledge to do six simple things to save lives this Road Safety Week

News from Brake

16/03/2015
news@brake.org.uk

Five people are killed every single day by something we already know how to cure. If people change their driving behaviour, we can prevent the 470 deaths and serious injuries that happen on our roads every week.

This is why Road Safety Week 2016, which is coordinated by Brake, the road safety charity, supported by Specsavers, will focus on the six elements of the Brake Pledge: Slow, Sober, Secure, Silent, Sharp and Sustainable.

The date for Road Safety Week will be 21-27 November and we will be asking everyone to show their commitment to saving lives and road safety by making and sharing Brake's Pledge online. Non-drivers can also take the Pledge to make sure the driver of any car in which they are a passenger sticks to the six Pledge points.

Brake believes that good road safety is made up of these core strands, and a safe driver will adopt each one as part of his or her daily driving routine. The consequences of not driving safely can be catastrophic.

Road safety is more than one part of what a driver does on the road; it is every action that can change the outcome of a journey and the future of individuals, communities and our planet.

Slow: Trying to make up time when running late could be the difference between a safe journey and one that ends in a fatality. Breaking the speed limit or travelling too fast for the conditions is recorded by police at crash scenes as a contributory factor in more than one in four (27%) fatal crashes in Great Britain [1].

Sober: That one drink a driver has before getting behind the wheel could affect their ability to make a split-second decision, a decision that might prevent them from killing either themselves or another road user. In 2013 one in 10 (11%) of drivers/motorcycle riders killed had alcohol present in their body even though they weren’t over the limit [2]. One in seven road deaths are at the hands of someone who got behind the wheel over the limit [3].

Secure: Despite their huge impact on road safety, seat belts are still seen as an inconvenience by a minority of drivers, yet using a three-point belt reduces the chance of dying in a crash by 50% [4]. 21% of car occupants killed in crashes were not wearing a seat belt [5].

Silent: That phone call a driver thinks simply cannot wait could cost them or another road user their life. Drivers who perform a complex secondary task at the wheel, like using a mobile, are three times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers [6].

Sharp: Booking in for a regular eye test should be at the top of any driver’s to-do list, as a skipped test may cost someone their life. Road crashes caused by poor driver vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties and cost £33 million in the UK per year [7].

Sustainable: By minimising the amount we drive, or not driving at all, and walking, cycling or using public transport instead we are removing the potential for many crashes to happen in the first place and doing the best we can for the environment and our individual health. Air pollution is a major killer: there are an estimated 29,000 deaths from particulate matter pollution in the UK [8], 5,000 of which are attributable to road transport [9].

This year’s Road Safety Week theme partly builds on the successful 2015 theme, which saw us call on people to ‘drive less, live more’ as Brake focused on the ‘Sustainable’ element of road safety. The Road Safety Week 2015 Evaluation Report found that Road Safety Week reached more people than ever before, thanks to traditional media coverage throughout the Week and an improved social media presence overall.

Gary Rae, Director of Communications and Campaigns for Brake, said: “We’ve designed this year’s theme to be action orientated. Anyone can make and share the Pledge – individuals, businesses and community organisations. It’s practical, and if every driver vowed to slow down, never drink or take drugs when driving or use their mobiles, always wear a seat belt and make sure children are safely restrained, get their eyesight regularly tested, and minimise the amount they drive, then our roads would be safer places for everyone.” 

[ENDS]

[1] Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2014, Department for Transport, 2015, table RAS50001

[2] Statistical data set: Reported drinking and driving (RAS51), Department for Transport, 2014, table RAS51007

[3] Provisional estimate for 2014, from Reported road casualties Great Britain: Estimates for accidents involving illegal alcohol levels: 2014 (second provisional), Department for Transport, February 2016

[4] The impact of driver inattention on near-crash/crash risk, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006

[5] Oral evidence: Road traffic law enforcement, HC 518, Transport Select Committee, 7 December 2015

[6] The Impact of Driver Inattention On Near-Crash/Crash Risk: An Analysis Using the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study Data, US Department of Transportation, 2006

[7] Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers, RSA Insurance Group plc, 2012

[8] Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England, 2014

[9] Steve H. L. Yim and Steven R. H. Barrett, “Public Health Impacts of Combustion Emissions in the United Kingdom”, Environmental Science & Technology 2012 46 (8), 4291-4296

Sharpen up

CAMSlider grey sharpenupHaving good eyesight is essential to safe driving. Yet some drivers fail to get their eyes tested regularly, some going years or even decades without checking their vision is up to scratch. Others put themselves and others in danger by driving without their glasses or lenses. Poor vision is estimated to cause 2,900 road casualties every year.

Currently, drivers of cars, vans and motorbikes are only required to have their eyesight checked once, when they take their driving test, by reading a number-plate – a method that doesn't accurately measure vision over distance, and fails to check peripheral vision or other vision problems. Beyond this, when they hit age 70, drivers must simply declare their vision meets legal requirements. We believe this is grossly inadequate.

Get the facts on driver eyesight.

What needs to be done?

Drivers can help make our roads safer by getting their eyes tested at least every two years, even if they think their vision is perfect, or straight away if they notice a problem. Vision can deteriorate quickly, sometimes without you noticing, so regular tests are crucial, and can help detect longer-term conditions before they get worse. If you need glasses or lenses, always wear them at the wheel.

We're calling on government to make it compulsory for drivers to have a professional eye test at the start of their driving career, and at least every 10 years thereafter, when renewing their photocard licence. This simple requirement would help prevent casualties and save the public purse at least £6.7 million annually. It would benefit drivers too, ensuring eye conditions are detected and treated early.

At the same time, government should raise driver awareness of the importance of getting tested at least every two years, such as by providing reminders in documentation about renewing your tax disc.

Find out more in our sharpen up policy briefing (November 2012).

What can I do?

Find out what you can do to help our other campaigns.

Campaign news

Charity welcomes General Medical Council's strengthening of guidelines on reporting medically 'unfit' driversn reporting medically 'unfit' drivers, 25/11/2015 
Thought-provoking 'Sharpen up' interactive resource launched, 21/08/2015
Charity urges government to make driver eyesight tests compulsory, 21/08/2014
Campaign calls on drivers to sharpen up, as survey reveals many fail to get sight tested, 06/08/2013
Brake reaction: thousands of casualties caused by poor driver vision, 02/11/2012
Brake campaign briefing on driver eyesight, 02/11/2012
Optical professionals encouraged to support Road Safety Week, 26/10/2012
Brake responds to DVLA consultation on changes to driver licensing laws, 24/02/2012
Brits take their eyes off the road, 01/02/2012
Meg Munn MP wins road safety award for campaign on driver eyesight, 05/01/2012
Proposals to weaken driver eyesight test criticised by Brake and bereaved family, 31/03/2011
Brake response to government consultation proposing to make number-plate test easier, 07/03/2011

specsaver

Stay sharp - Octo Telematics

Driving is a complicated and sometimes dangerous task. It’s therefore crucial that you are in the best shape possible to do it. By driving with poor health, vision, or while stressed, fatigued or on medication you may be putting not only your life, but the lives of others at risk.

Monitoring eyesight is the first step. Over time, our eyes deteriorate and it’s actually possible for eyesight to degrade 40% before there’s a noticeable difference. Drivers should ensure that their eyes are in the best possible condition and, in fact, it’s recommended that they should have an eye test every two years – or immediately if they notice a problem.

But when we’re thinking about health, it isn’t just our eyes we need to worry about. A driver has a legal obligation to notify the DVLA of any injury or illness that may impact driving ability.  Failing to report this may result in a fine, ban, or even further legal consequences if the condition is directly to blame for a road crash. Even everyday medication can cause drowsiness so it’s important to check the label to see if there are any potential side effects that could affect driving.  

But even if we’re in the best of health we still may not be ‘sharp’. A common cause of crashes on British roads is tiredness. The Department for Transport has actually found that a quarter of all crashes on British are caused due to sleep deprivation. Losing concentration or even nodding off, just for a second, can result in severe crashes that have catastrophic consequences.  You are only ever fully alert when fully awake and rested so it is vital that you plan your journey ahead with regular breaks and get a good night’s sleep beforehand.

If you feel tired, you must react. Pull over somewhere safe as soon as possible to ensure that no crashes occur. Despite common perceptions, winding down the window or turning up your music does not help you fight off the fatigue. The only real cure is taking a break. Octo Telematics, the number one global provider of telematics for the auto insurance industry, supports Road Safety Week and the pledges Brake has proposed on sharp driving:

  • Drivers – I'll stay focused on safe driving. I'll take regular breaks and never drive if I'm tired, stressed or on medication that affects driving. I'll get my eyes tested every two years and wear glasses or lenses at the wheel if I need them.
  • Everyone – I'll look out for friends and loved ones by ensuring they only drive if they're fit for it, and rest if they're tired.

Vision Express and Brake

VE SmallWhile raising awareness of how a regular eye test can safeguard the nation’s sight is at the very heart of what Vision Express does, the optician has identified driver sight as a critical issue.

Vision Express passionately believes that road safety can be improved if motorists were better educated about sight – for example that around 40% of vision can be lost without it being noticed by the individual, and up to five million UK drivers would fail a number plate test if they had to take it again.

The dangers posed by motorists who are unfit to drive due to poor sight have been repeatedly demonstrated with devastating consequences. Road crashes due to poor driver vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties in the UK per year.


D4Z logoIn 2017, Brake and Vision Express have joined forces on Brake’s new ‘Driving for Zero’ initiative. By working together, both organisations hope to encourage more drivers to have regular eye tests and help keep Britain’s roads safer. They also plan to use their political connections to influence policy surrounding mandatory eye testing at the driving test and renewal stages.

Activities were launched this summer with Vision Express hosting a Staycation Tour across the UK, visiting five Welcome Break service stations from the 17th to the 21st July 2017. Whilst there they offered Free Eye Test vouchers and eye screening to highlight the importance of driver eye health, offering drivers in the UK Free Eye Tests across the summer holidays.

tour map

The tour aimed to target the 50% of holiday makers choosing to take their main holiday within the UK this year (compared to 38% in 2016). Roads are under more pressure than ever before, and in a recent study by Vision Express, Brits are more likely to have their vehicles stocked with plenty of drinks and snacks but are less likely to have had their eyes tested.

 Research carried out among motorists by Vision Express found that:

  • 92% believe they meet the legal eyesight requirement for driving, yet over 60% cannot identify what this is
  • 76% want a recent eye test to be mandatory when renewing a driving licence
  • 15% of drivers hadn’t had a sight check since reading a number plate during their driving test, which was on average, 14 years ago
  • 30% of UK drivers are overdue an Eye Test, with 4% admitting to never having one at all

Jonathan Lawson, Vision Express CEO explains: “It’s extremely worrying that reports estimate five million drivers on UK roads would fail a number plate test if they had to take it again. What’s more, almost six in ten agree that reading a number plate as part of a driving test is an outdated and ineffective way to check sight is good enough to drive for years to come. That’s why we’re committed to continuing to reach out to motorists and do all we can to encourage them to consider their vision before getting behind the wheel.”

See the story of Greg Archer here, supporting the launch of this campaign.

In their long term initiative supported by Brake, Vision Express has been lobbying Government to have signs displayed across major roads and motorways telling motorists ‘EYE TESTS SAVE LIVES’ during Road Safety Week. Leading this campaign, Vision Express teamed up with one family whose lives were destroyed by a 78-year old visually-impaired driver who killed a 28-year-old at a pelican crossing.

View the video of their story here.