posted 4 years ago

Charity calls for compulsory driver sight tests to save lives

Survey shows motorists ignore poor vision

The road safety charity Brake today launched a campaign calling for the government to make regular eyesight tests compulsory for motorists.

A new survey reveals widespread public support for the move, which would help to combat the estimated 2,900 road casualties a year in the UK in which poor vision is a factor.

Almost nine in ten (87%) people support drivers having to prove they have had a recent sight test every 10 years – replacing the current system of only testing vision at the driving test.

The survey, conducted with Specsavers and RSA Insurance Group, reveals the extent of the problem. A shocking one in eight drivers (12%) who know they need glasses or contact lenses to drive have done so without them in the past year . 

And one in five (19%) have put off visiting the optician when they noticed a problem.

Other findings include:

·       a quarter of drivers admit they have not had their eyes tested in more than two years - despite research showing you can lose up to 40% of your vision before noticing the difference

·       More than 1.5 million UK drivers (4%) have never had their eyes tested;

·       One in eight (12%) have not had their eyes tested for more than five years; and

·       Of the 54% of UK drivers who believe they don't need glasses or lenses to drive, one third (33%) have no way of knowing this for sure, having not had an eyesight test in over two years.

Tragic consequences

The tragic story of a bride-to-be who was mown down by a partially-sighted driver on a zebra crossing highlights the dangers of the current system.  

Natalie Wade, 28, was knocked down in 2006, while shopping for her wedding dress. She suffered severe brain damage from which she died in intensive care on Valentine's Day.

The 78-year-old driver who hit her was blind in one eye and has 40 defects in the other, but had not declared his eyesight problems to the DVLA.

Since she was killed, Natalie’s family have been campaigning for changes in the law to prevent similar, avoidable tragedies. Her aunt, Reverend Brenda Gutberlet, said: “To get behind the wheel of a vehicle unable to see shows a disregard for the lives of others and it can’t be right that we still allow drivers to do so.”

Common sense will save lives

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "Compulsory regular eyesight testing for drivers is a common sense, lifesaving move. Making sure your vision is up to scratch is crucial to safe driving, and though it may seem there are plenty of excuses to put off going to the opticians, none is good enough when it comes to putting people's lives at risk.”

Terry Hogan, co-founder of, said: “We support and promote responsible driving and will be actively supporting this important campaign from Brake.”


Not as straightforward as is being claimed. I am in my 70s, and have glasses for everyday vision. Excellent for reading the papers, or the dashboard, but useless when it comes to peripheral vision. My optician agrees, says I have to turn my head more. This is NOT an age issue - my wife has had similar specs since she was a child, and has the same peripheral vision inadequacy. Now it is this peripheral vision which is the most important thing in driving and accidents - I think

Hi. not to sound rude is this a way of DVLA & Spec companys making more money out of us. We already have to pay every ten years to upgrade our licence.

I total agree with the use of compulsory eye test for drivers. But we must educate pedestrians as well. the amount of times i had do aam emergency stop on the highway as well as crossings. People just want to walk out in front of cars and vans. There should be a green cross code again just to wake up people. Again there should be eye tests set out every so often

Yes it makes sense to have good eye sight, and older driver usually have regular eye tests, but the worst drivers I see are young drivers who are sons of immigrants, they bomb round the streets at will, and the cops keep out of the way and never seem to pull them up. But what worries me is the involvement of the self styled "Road Safety charity Brake" which I think is a spin off of the crackpots in Transport 2000, why can't eye specialists like Specsavers run their own campaigns without the instigation and the involvement of Break who take every opportunity to attack anything vehicular.

To Jacky Turner: I don't see why that should apply just to 'elderly drivers'? I live in a quiet village and the only drivers I see exceeding the 30 limit by a substantial margin are always under 40 and most appear to be under 30. I would be in favour of retesting everyone every 5 years if we had the facilities to do it - but we would need 100s if not 1000s of testers - no chance. The answer is to retest after a serious accident or series of accidents or offences. Even then, we would need numerous additional testers. We all see people who don't know the Highway Code in relation to lane discipline, priority to buses pulling away from bus stops, use of rear fogs, and indicating on exiting roundabouts - most people don't! I carry a new copy of the Highway Code in my car - it makes fascinating reading for those who passed their test last century. IT CHANGES.

This has very little to do with age. Like Tony Gardner, I test my number plate reading ability almost weekly and now wear varifocals when I drive, not because I need them but because I appreciate my eyes are deteriorating with age although I would pass the DVLA eyesight test. But I know a guy who has no night vision who drives at night - there must be thousands like him on our roads. And I know people with perfect eyesight who can't see what's happening ahead and rarely look in their rear view mirrors. I'm going to retake my IAM test soon to ensure I'm up to standard (I nearly said 'speed'!!!!!

I am a 80year old driver. I have a eye test every year. I can see better now than 20 years ago. This is due to me having cataract surgery and having lens implanted into my eyes. I used to need strong glasses not now

Whilst the testing of eyesight regularly should be done, particularly over a certain age, present methods would fail to address the major cause of problems, which is the deterioration of night vision. To be able to read a number plate at 20 metres in good daylight doesn't test what eyesight will be like after dark. But certainly, drivers should not be allowed to simply assess themselves in this and other areas which may affect their competence.

Any action again drivers would be political suicide.

Whilst I agree with this 100% I also feel there should be a test that elderly drivers should be given as to whether they can continue driving instead of the form they have to fill in based on their own considerations as to whether they are fit/ able to drive anymore or are they a risk to themselves or others.

I have published papers in British Journal of Ophthalmology and elsewhere my research that central visual sensitivity (NOT acuity but sensitivity) reduces between 20 & 60 years of age by the same ratio that Xenon headlights are brighter than Halogens. However the option to buy Xenons seems to apply to more "sporty" cars than models bought by older drivers.

My eyesight is not as good as when young but when walking the dog I test it myself every week or so. When approaching a parked car I note when I can clearly read the numberplate then pace out the distance to the car. It's currently just over twice the distance required but I feel that the required distance should be greater - any views on that?

eye tests are free at tesco so no excuse really!

As an older driver who wears glasses and is tested regularly I would be content for sight tests to be required. For those who use video screens ipads and the like it would be wise to check your sight every four years or so even if you are not a driver. DVLA could call licence holders to self certify that they have been tested in the previous five years As for a sanction then triple the penalty for either a false or no declaration. Cost would be no more than a daily newspaper once a week.

According to my optician, the vast majority of people who should wear spectacles or contact lenses while driving, happily admit to not doing so?! Regular eye tests alone is not the complete answer; somehow we need to defeat the public's vanity too!?

I don't agree Marion. Someone has to foot.the bill and it will be through taxation. It is every drivers responsibility to ensure that theyhave an eye test every two years. I'm all in favour of making this compulsory. Then there is the problem of keeping those who haven't complied off the road. How would this be done? Impound their vehicle?

I agree. An old bloke drove over a crossing when my wife and I were half way across recently. The theory test should also be retaken every five years.

Maybe if sight tests were free it may help a bit