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Police offer free eye tests for all motorists

 Published 8th November 2018
General Guides 

Don't get your hopes up, the police aren't actually offering free eye tests just yet. But If you were driving around the Thames Valley, Hampshire, or West Midlands in September and unwittingly attracted the attention of the police you probably had your eyesight tested.

This was part of a push to draw attention to the fact that, as we age, our eyesight naturally deteriorates. It's not something we really think about too much. But if your eyesight isn't up to scratch it could have serious consequences for your driving. Basically all they are saying is this: if you need glasses, then get some; just don't drive around if you can't see very well.

At the moment this was only a one-month trial and was restricted to those three forces. Depending on the results it could well be rolled out across the country.

During the trial everyone stopped by the police, for whatever reason, was asked to read a number plate from a distance of 20m. If you failed and they consider your lack of vision a serious hazard your licence would have been revoked. Immediately. On the spot. The law says you can't drive if your eyesight doesn't meet minimum requirements so don't risk it.

IAM RoadSmart, the UK's biggest independent road safety charity, has welcomed this new trial and warns drivers that if it is a success they can expect additional basic safety checks from traffic police in the future.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “Law abiding drivers have nothing to fear from this – but we believe that extending the range of checks that the police could and should be doing will help remove many more unsafe drivers from our roads."

Before you start thinking that all sounds a bit draconian they've also come up with some tips to make sure your eyesight is up to the task.

Book regular check-ups: your eyes are almost guaranteed to get a bit less efficient over time. If you can't see your phone without holding it at arms length, or watch TV without shuffling forward a bit then it may be time to get an eye test. Unless anything drastic occurs you only need to get it done every couple of years so it's not too much of an inconvenience.

Take a break: we all know driving for too long can be quite tiring. Your eyes get tired too. If you are travelling for long periods of time take a break every two hours or 100 miles to give your eyes a chance to focus on something other than the rear end of yet another car.

Driving at night: driving at night can be an exhilarating blend of complete darkness punctuated with moments of intense, blinding light when the oncoming car is a bit slow to turn off full-beam. It can also be an endless procession of orange street lights and big shiny road signs. Either way it messes with your eyes at the best of times. Minimise your night time driving as much as possible and give your eyes a rest.

Keep a pair of sunglasses in the car: apart from making you look cool in the middle of winter (honestly) they can still come in handy. A wet road and a low sun can be worse than the brightest, hottest summer day on record sometimes. Add a few leaves into the mix and the road begins to look like a desert mirage. There's no shame in wearing sunglasses in winter, as long as the sun is actually shining that is.

Know the law: the law is very clear, for once. You must be able to read, with glasses or contact lenses, if you wear them, a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres. If you can't do that then you aren't allowed to drive. If you can, off you go. The guidelines are available on the government website so you can check that you're ok to nip to the shop for milk in the morning.

Stay hydrated: not as random as you may think. At the risk of stating the obvious, water is very good at keeping you hydrated. If you're properly hydrated everything works better, including your eyes and concentration levels. Not only is it good for you but a bottle of water also gives you something to fiddle with when you're sat in stationary traffic. Again.

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