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Is your eyesight fit to drive?

 Published 10th April 2023
Driver Guides  General Guides 

Your car is subject to regular tests to make sure it's roadworthy, but when was the last time you had the driver checked? More specifically, when did you last have your eyes tested?

According to GEM, the road safety organisation, poor eyesight is linked to nearly 3,000 fatal and serious collisions every year. We all know our cars must be safe to drive, but it's easy to overlook the fact we have to be up to the task as well.

That's why having an eye test every two years is a key part of being a responsible driver, whatever your age. It can ensure there are no safety concerns about your vision and gives you the chance to deal with any issues at an early stage.

Eye tests are free to those aged 60 or over, under 16 years of age and anyone aged 16 to 18 and in full time education. For others, an eye test typically costs less than £30. That's not even the cost of a tank of fuel. GEM is urging everyone to prioritise safety and ensure they have a proper eye examination with an optician every two years.

Gradual deterioration of vision

The problem is that we are unlikely to notice many of the changes to our vision because it can happen so gradually, which means we don't necessarily realise how bad it has become. It takes a professional examination to reveal changes to our visual acuity, peripheral awareness, eye coordination, depth perception, ability to focus and colour vision. Eye tests allow professionals to identify and correct any problems, meaning the risks of driving are reduced and the road environment is safer.

The current test requires a driver to be able to read a vehicle number plate at a distance of 20 metres (65 feet) in good daylight. Figures suggest between 2-3% of drivers are using the roads with vision that fails to meet this minimum standard.

That equates to thousands of people driving around with defective eyesight that has deteriorated to a dangerous level. Regular eye tests would contribute to reducing the number of fatal and serious injury collisions which occur every year on the UK's roads because of poor eyesight, according to GEM.

Nobody wants to be told they're no longer fit to drive but ultimately it's a decision many of us will face at some point. GEM is keen to support people who wish to stay behind the wheel for longer, but road safety has to be the priority. Under the present regulations, it's down to individual responsibility for drivers to declare themselves fit to drive.

With this in mind, GEM has compiled a list of simple tips to ensure drivers have good vision on their journeys. GEM says it's vital to reduce the number of people of all ages who drive with defective vision.

Top tips for looking after your eyes –

  • To be as safe as possible on the road as a driver, it's vital to ensure your vision is good enough.

  • If your vision has deteriorated, you need to ensure it is corrected by glasses or contact lenses as necessary.

  • Changes in vision can be so slow that you may not notice. That's why it's so important to let a professional give your eyes a thorough examination every two years.

  • Early signs that your sight may be changing include eye strain, unusual headaches, and difficulty in seeing at night or when light conditions change.

  • It's easy to get an eyesight test at your local optician – it's inexpensive and you may even qualify for a free test.

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