Eye experts call for drivers to have compulsory sight tests every 10 years

Updated: 

Motorists should face compulsory sight tests every 10 years to stay on the road, leading eye experts have said.

More than a third (35%) of optometrists have seen patients in the last month who continue to drive despite being told their vision is below the legal standard, according to the Association of Optometrists (AOP).

Britain has some of the most relaxed vision requirements for drivers in Europe.

There is no mandatory eye exam apart from having to read a number plate on a parked vehicle at the start of the practical driving test.

This means a 17-year-old may continue to drive for the rest of their life with no further checks.

Seven people were killed and 63 were seriously injured in accidents on Britain's roads last year when "uncorrected, defective eyesight" was a contributory factor, Department for Transport data shows.

Motorists must tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if they have problems with their eyesight, but their licence will continue to be renewed if they do not admit to having difficulties.

Nine out of 10 (91%) optometrists believe the current rules are insufficient.

A separate poll of 2,007 road users found that 30% have driven despite doubting their vision was adequate.

The survey also found that only 40% would stop driving if they were told their vision - even with glasses or contact lenses - was below the legal standard for driving.

Bride-to-be Natalie Wade, 28, suffered fatal injuries when she was knocked down by a car driven by a partially sighted driver who had failed to declare his vision problems to the DVLA.

The accident happened as she was using a pelican crossing while shopping for her wedding dress near her home in Rochford, Essex in February 2006.

The driver, John Thorpe, 78, of Hullbridge, Essex was due to stand trial for causing death by dangerous driving but died before the case reached court.

He was blind in one eye and had poor sight in the other.

Ms Wade's family have campaigned for regular sight tests to be made compulsory for drivers.

(PA)
(PA)

The hairstylist's aunt, Brenda Gutberlet, 63, from Canvey Island, Essex said: "We want the law changed so other families don't have to go through what we have.

"How many more people have to die before our outdated laws on drivers' medical fitness are changed?"

The AOP has launched a Don't Swerve A Sight Test campaign urging people to get tested every two years.

Optometrist and AOP board member Dr Julie Anne-Little claimed Britain "falls behind many other countries" due to its reliance on self-reporting and the initial number plate test.

She said: "Because sight changes can be gradual, often people won't realise that their vision has deteriorated over time.

"This campaign is about reminding drivers that with a visit to their optometrist they can not only make sure they meet the standard but help make our roads safer."

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: "Just as motorists should be routinely monitoring the road worthiness of their vehicles, so they should also be regularly checking their own fitness to drive."

(PA)
(PA)

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "All drivers are required by law to make sure their eyesight is good enough to drive.

"If a driver experiences changes to their eyesight or has a condition which may affect their driving, they must make the DVLA aware of this.

"If you are unsure whether your eyesight meets the standards, you should notify the DVLA and speak to an optician."