The Driver Eye Test Is ‘Not Fit For Purpose’, According To Safety Group

The current driver eye test is ‘not fit for purpose’ and ‘out of date’, according to a road safety group. It’s calling for a more thorough and consistent kind of testing…

‘Shouldn’t Be Driving’ 

As it stands, drivers must be able to read (with glasses or contacts if required) a number plate from a distance of 20 meters. That’s been the case since September 2001. The eye test is a part of the driving test and, should a candidate fail, the test ends immediately. In addition, their provisional license is revoked and the DVLA is informed. To reapply, an applicant will then have to pass an eye test at a DVLA driving test centre; along with a standard one as well once they retake the practical. More specifically, drivers must have a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale. GEM Motoring Assist, a road safety and breakdown recovery organisation, believes all of this is no longer sufficient in ensuring safety.

Neil Worth, a road safety officer, emphasised the group’s safety concerns. He said, “if you can’t see properly, you shouldn’t be driving. Poor eyesight is linked to more than 3,000 fatal and serious injury collisions every year. We are worried that there are just too many people driving whose eyesight has deteriorated to an unacceptable level”. GEM wants a detailed eye test to be required every 10 years as a part of the driver photocard licence renewal process. Worth explained, “tests of this kind would not only make our roads safer, saving lives, disability and many millions of pounds through the reduction in the number of crashes, but they would also play a vital role in the early diagnosis of many other costly medical conditions, irrespective of driving”.

The DVLA’s Campaign 

GEM isn’t alone in stressing the necessity of clear vision whilst driving. Just last year, the DVLA launched an awareness campaign highlighting the safety considerations. It advised drivers to regularly check their vision by taking the 20 meters test themselves. This distance is the equivalent of around five car length’s or eight parking bays.

Dr Wyn Parry, DVLA’s senior doctor, said, “the number plate test is a simple and effective way for people to check their eyesight meets the required standards for driving”, He added, “having good eyesight is essential for safe driving, so it’s really important for drivers to have regular eye tests. Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time so anyone concerned about their eyesight should visit their optician – don’t wait for your next check-up.” The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has also advised drivers, especially elderly ones, to keep a spare pair of glasses in their cars.

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