The Driving Blind Campaign is petitioning for ‘direct action’ from the government. They estimate that 3,000 casualties a year occur in the UK in relation to drivers with poor vision. This costs the UK approximately £33 million a year.
Lack of Legislation
As it stands, the UK’s law on poor vision and driving is basic at best. All you need to pass your driving test is to read a number plate at 20 metres. There is no full eye examination and no follow up for the rest of your driving career. If you are involved in an accident with insufficient eyesight, however, your insurance is deemed invalid. You can be prosecuted for death by dangerous driving or death due to careless driving.
With that said, it’s the driver’s responsibility to visit the opticians and, crucially, notify the DVLA of any concerns raised. Drivers can receive a fine of up to £1000 if the DVLA is not informed of a medical condition that affects their ability to drive. Since the introduction of Cassie’s Law in 2013, Police now have the ability to revoke a driver’s licence at the roadside if unable to pass the basic test of reading a number plate. The Driving Blind Campaign argues this is not enough.
“To its shame, the UK allows most new drivers to be responsible for controlling a ton of metal, when the only assessment of their visual capacity is a basic vision test conducted by a non-medically qualified driving test centre worker.
“In theory, they can then drive for the rest of their lives without ever having to prove their vision is fit for purpose. We need drivers to provide evidence from an optical professional that their eyes are roadworthy before they get their licence and then at regular intervals over their driving career.”
Facts and Figures
According to the campaign, almost 50,000 UK drivers between 2012 and 2016 had their licences refused or revoked due to poor vision. In 2016, a survey revealed 37% of 2,000 drivers hadn’t had an eyesight test in the last two years. Shockingly, 3% – which equates to 1.5 million UK drivers – had never had a test at all. This same survey unearthed that over 20% of drivers who reported needing corrective lenses admitted to never using them.
The Campaign speaks of three high-profile cases in 2017 where poor vision contributed to fatal accidents. In one such incident, the driver was jailed for killing an infant pedestrian crossing the road with her mother. The driver reported to the police that he had not seen the red light or the pelican crossing. It was later found out that the driver had previously been advised by his optician that his vision was not adequate for driving. The driver chose to ignore the advice.
This new campaign is not the first to challenge the government, however. The main snagging point always seems to be the lack of concrete evidence to link collisions and defective eyesight.
The Proposed Solution
The Say No to #DrivingBlind petition is building traction and currently stands at over 3,300 signatures. It is gaining support from MPs and opticians across the country.
They are fighting for their Road Safety Starts with Good Vision manifesto. It would require ‘new drivers to be vision tested and certified by an optician, with follow-up tests every decade up to the age of 70, and then every three years’.
Regardless of its success, I think we can all agree that it is better to be safe than sorry. Can’t remember when your last eyesight test was? Get booking. Your eyes are your most valuable tool for driving and should be checked at least every two years.