Opticians are supporting a new national campaign to stop UK motorists ‘driving blind’ that will petition Government for direct action to cut road accidents caused by drivers with defective vision.
The campaign is launched by Essilor Ltd, with support from the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO), the Association of Optometrists (AOP), International Opticians Association (IOA), GEM Motoring Assist, individual independent opticians, MPs and activists.
Campaign spokesman Nigel Corbett from Essilor and ABDO are rallying every British optical professional to support the www.drivingblind.org.uk campaign by signing the petition and encouraging colleagues, patients and MPs to do the same.
Mr Corbett will present the Road Safety Starts with Good Vision Manifesto this winter in the House of Commons, calling for new legislation. This would require drivers to have their sight tested in optical practices before their driving test and at every licence renewal application up to the age of 70 and then every three years, with test results supplied with licence renewal paperwork.
Mr Corbett said: “We need social media support, and we will share blogs and messages of support so email email@example.com or call us for quick and easy ways to help. We have posters and petition copies that can be used in practices which most patients will sign, but even if each optical professional signs it, we are half way to our target.
“We know the UK allows most new drivers to control a fast moving ton of metal for life, when the only assessment of their visual capacity is the basic 20 metre vision test done by a non-medically qualified driving test centre worker.”
Mr Corbett said it ’is not enough for the gov.uk website to merely list drivers’ vision standards.
“Tests must be mandatory and have professional rigour. We know sight worsens with age yet we allow people to self-assess their eyes are fit to drive.”
ABDO Deputy Chief Executive Barry Duncan said: ’”After discussion at the recent ABDO Board meeting, there was unanimous support to endorse the project and collectively we applaud the direction of travel colleagues at Essilor are taking. It is essential that representative bodies and other stakeholders join forces to influence change with key decision makers. Whilst there will be challenges along the way there is most definitely both an eye and public health benefit which cannot be ignored.
”The ABDO Board hope that dispensing opticians will be proactive by encouraging as many people as possible to sign the petition and trust that they will recognise the benefits themselves. Once again it is important for DOs to play a major part in educating those with visual issues about driving when they shouldn’t be, highlighting the need for regular eye examinations and sign posting accordingly for further assistance when the need arises”.
Mr Corbett said the Government is failing to meet its own regulatory requirements and that UK road safety figures make sobering reading.
It has been estimated that there are 3,000 casualties on UK roads every year where poor vision is a key factor according to the RSA, which Mr Corbett said “is likely to be the tip of the iceberg as many drivers will not admit to poor vision in an accident.”
AOP Professional Adviser Henry Leonard said: “Eyesight is not always recorded as a factor at a road traffic accident but we believe the UK system creates unnecessary risk for road users. The current law relies on self-reporting and an initial number plate test – a practice that falls behind almost every other European country. The AOP is keen to see this rectified. All drivers should prove that they meet the legal requirement when they apply for a licence and then every 10 years, at licence renewal.
“We know from studies that poor vision has a detrimental impact on reaction times and there have been numerous tragic cases that were likely avoidable, had a robust system been in place. Because sight changes can be gradual, often people won’t realise that their vision has deteriorated over time or they may self-regulate – driving less, more slowly and on familiar routes. This is why the AOP advises everyone has a sight test every two years as a way of ensuring that they meet the legal driving standard – if they don’t, often an optometrist will be able to help them to reach this standard.”
AOP research in 2017 revealed that more than one in three optometrists had seen a patient in the previous month who had vision below the legal standard, yet ignored advice and continued to drive. Its 2017 consumer poll showed that 30 per cent of current road users had doubted whether their vision was adequate, yet continued to drive.
Figures obtained from the DVLA indicate that nearly 50,000 motorists had their licence revoked or refused in the period from 2012 to 2016 due to poor vision.
The World Health Organisation has declared poor eyesight to one of the main risk factors for road crashes. A global study by the University of Milan has claimed that sixty per cent of motoring accidents are a result of visual processing errors.
A study by road safety charity Brake in 2014 showed that 1.5 million UK motorists had never had their eyes tested. A Direct Line study in April 2016 revealed that 37 per cent of people had not had an eye test in the previous two years.
The campaign follows several high profile cases in recent years where poor vision was a factor in fatal accidents, including the death of Poppy-Arabella Clarke, who was killed on a pelican crossing by a pensioner who had been advised by his optometrist that his vision was not fit to keep driving, who told police that he had not seen the red light or the pelican crossing.
Peter Scriven was jailed after killing a 65-year-old pedestrian. He had never had a sight test, was blind in one eye and could only read a number plate at three metres.
Mr Corbett’s manifesto would bring the UK into line with countries including Italy, Spain, Estonia, Latvia, Serbia and Turkey, where drivers are tested every 10 years and at five, three or two year intervals as they get older.
It also calls on employers to test the vision of company car users who hold group one licences and who can do as much mileage as group two drivers.
Mr Corbett said there is huge public demand for change with surveys by the charity Brake and others showing that up to 87 per cent of the public want compulsory sight tests for drivers every 10 years and up to 86 per cent support new drivers being tested by an optical professional.
“We need many drivers to re-think their behaviour here, but for pedestrians, children, cyclists and other road-users, legislation is the best route,” he said.
Follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook: @DrivingBlindUK