Almost half (44 percent) of optometrists have seen a patient in the last month who continued to drive despite being told their vision was below the legal standard, according to the Association of Optometrists (AOP).

Now, the AOP is campaigning for a law change, citing that UK regulation is “among the laxest in Europe”. Currently, drivers must undergo an initial number plate test when taking a driving test, then complete a self-declaration for renewing their licence thereafter. This means a 17-year-old who can read a number plate from 20 metres away when they take their test, may continue to drive with no further checks for the rest of their life.

The AOP’s “Don’t swerve a sight test” campaign is calling for drivers to be required, by law, to have a comprehensive vision check to prove their vision meets the legal standard when they first apply for their licence and every 10 years thereafter, or more frequently after the age of 70. It is also reminding drivers to undergo a sight test every two years to maximise eye health and help make roads safer.

“It is shocking that so many drivers are overlooking the importance of good vision. Sight loss can often be gradual, and people may not notice changes that could affect their ability to drive,” said Optometrist and AOP Professional Advisor, Henry Leonard. “This campaign is about reminding drivers that regular visits to their optometrist are the best way to make sure they meet the legal standard for driving and help make our roads safer.”

An AOP report found that:

  • One in 20 (six percent) drivers on UK’s roads admit they’ve doubted whether their own vision is good enough to drive yet have done nothing about it
  • Nearly a fifth (17 percent) of regular drivers admit they have never self-checked their own vision by reading a number plate as suggested by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s (DVLA’s) recommendations
  • One in 10 (12 percent) regular drivers would continue driving as normal if told their vision could not be corrected to meet the legal standard, while 42 percent would continue to drive in some capacity, such as cutting back on short journeys or only driving locally
  • A quarter (27 percent) of people would do nothing if they knew a friend or family member who continued to drive with poor eyesight

According to the AOP, an estimated 2,900 injuries on British roads each year are caused by drivers with poor vision.