3,000 injuries a year on UK roads caused by poor vision

Many motorists with bad eyesight are still behind the wheel, despite expert advice.

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Nearly 3,000 injuries in the United Kingdom are caused every year by drivers with bad eyesight, according to a new report from the Association of Optometrists (AOP).

Almost half (44 per cent) of UK-based eye doctors, the report found, have seen a patient in the last month who continues to drive despite being told that their vision is not up to the legal standard. And the AOP is critical of the UK’s eyesight requirements for drivers in the first place, labelling them “among the laxest in Europe”. 

Currently, drivers in the UK are required to undergo an initial eyesight exam when they apply for their license, then complete a self-declaration for renewing it later down the line. It is possible, then, for a 17-year-old who can read a number plate correctly from 20 metres away – the standard eyesight test set by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – to not undergo any more checks for the rest of their life.

The AOP has launched the “Don’t Swerve a Sight Test” campaign off the back of its report, suggesting that drivers should undergo an eyesight test every two years.

As part of this campaign, the AOP surveyed 2,000 members of the public, including 1,3000 regular motorists. Nearly a fifth of respondents indicated that they have never self-checked their own vision after passing their initial test, while concerningly, over a quarter (27 per cent) said that they would do nothing if they knew that a friend or family member was driving with poor vision.

Optometrist and APO spokesperson Henry Leonard said: “It is shocking that so many drivers are overlooking the importance of good vision. Sight change can be gradual, and people may not notice changes that could affect their ability to drive.”

He added: “This campaign is about reminding drivers that regular visits to their optometrist are the best way to make sure they meet the legal standard for driving and help make our roads safer.”

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.