AN OVERWHELMING majority of UK car users believe an eye test should be a mandatory part of the driving test, according to a survey by a leading lens manufacturer.
Of those quizzed by ZEISS Vision Care UK, four-fifths (80%) of respondents said a full eye test should be a legally required part of gaining a driving licence, with an even higher number (85%) saying learner drivers should be required to take an eye test before they even take their first lesson.
Currently, a provisional driving licence holder’s eyesight is assessed as part of the practical driving test during the so-called “number plate test”, which simply requires the driver to correctly read out a vehicle’s number plate from a distance of 20m. If the learner isn’t able to read out the number plate, they automatically fail the practical exam.
The Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) will revoke the provisional licence of a learner driver who fails the number plate test. Learners who fail this part of the practical test are allowed to reapply for a new licence, on the condition that they take an eye test at a driving test centre, and the learner driver will still need to attempt the number plate test again when they retake their practical exam.
Those polled by ZEISS also want more scrutiny of elderly drivers’ eyesight. More than two-thirds (67%) felt motorists should be legally required to take eye tests every year after their 50th birthday, and that rose to more than four-fifths (84%) for the over-70s.
In November 2018, the Association of Optometrists also called for mandatory, regular “comprehensive vision checks” of motorists, in order for them to keep their licence.
Even though the DVLA launched an awareness campaign in July 2018 to encourage British drivers to regularly have their eyes tested, the ZEISS study suggests a sizeable number of British motorists are unaware that they have defective vision.
Around one-in-eight (12.5%) of those polled admitted they only started wearing glasses behind the wheel after they got lost due to being unable to clearly see road signs, while one-in-10 (10%) revealed they only took an eye test after their passengers began expressing concern over their poor eyesight.
Sofia Fazal, Professional Services Manager at ZEISS Vision Care UK said: “Our research shows that there is just as much appetite for a change in the law amongst the public as there is amongst road safety organisations, and we would welcome a fresh look at the current legislation.
“This time of year, with poor weather, longer nights and low winter sun all negatively impacting drivers’ vision is particularly dangerous on the roads so we would recommend that drivers take proactive steps and book a simple eye test to ensure their eyesight is good enough for them to be safely behind the wheel.”