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Thought-provoking interactive resource launched to highlight importance of eye tests for drivers

By Kyle Linsay
Monday, August 24, 2015 - 19:00

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Brake

Brake, the road safety charity, has produced a free interactive e-learning resource to highlight the importance of making sure your vision is up to scratch before getting behind the wheel. ‘Sharpen up’, developed in partnership with Specsavers, can be used by anyone who works with drivers, including: fleet professionals and employers; driving instructors; road safety professionals and emergency services; teachers; community leaders; and by individuals directly wanting to find out more about driver eyesight.

People with impaired vision are much more likely to be involved in a road crash, and are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties per year1. Eyesight can deteriorate rapidly without you noticing, hence experts recommend having an eyesight test at least every two years. A 2014 survey by Brake and Specsavers2 found that one in four (25%) drivers hadn’t had a vision test in the past two years; and 4% (the equivalent to more than 1.5 million UK drivers) had never had their eyes tested. A worrying one in eight (12%) who need glasses or contact lenses admitted driving without them.

Brake calls on all drivers to ensure that their vision is at a safe standard for driving, helping to keep themselves and others safe, through regular (at least two-yearly) eyesight tests and always wearing glasses or lenses if they’re needed. Brake also calls on the government to follow public opinion and introduce compulsory eyesight tests for drivers, a move favoured by almost nine in 10 (87%) people3.

The open-access ‘Sharpen up’ resource can be used to facilitate discussion and present the facts on the importance of drivers getting regular eye tests and maintaining good eye health, within a training session, lesson, workshop or online communications – especially by fleet managers, driving instructors and road safety professionals. Brake is especially encouraging professionals who work with older people to use the ‘Sharpen up’ resource to promote awareness of drivers’ responsibilities on fitness-to-drive issues.

Access the resource online now at www.brake.org.uk/sharpenupinteractive.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said:“Making sure your vision is up to scratch is crucial to safe driving. It’s vital for drivers to get their eyes checked professionally at least every two years – eyesight can deteriorate rapidly without you noticing. Our new ‘Sharpen up’ e-learning resource shows people the dangers of driving with poor eyesight, encouraging them to make that vital trip to the opticians. The resource is a powerful tool that shows that if you drive, it’s not just your own health and safety that you are risking if you neglect to get your eyesight checked, but also the lives of the people around you. The resource is freely available to road safety practitioners, employers, driving instructors and educators to help them raise life-saving awareness.”

Paul Carroll, Specsavers’ director of professional services, said: “It’s important that we all recognise the importance of regular eye examinations and the role that they play in keeping both drivers and pedestrians safe on the roads. In many cases drivers’ eyesight is only tested once, on the day of their driving test. It is then the driver’s responsibility to check whether their vision remains above the legal standard. Because eyesight deteriorates gradually over time, the only way a driver can be 100% certain that they remain both legal and safe is to have regular eye examinations, which the ‘Sharpen Up’ tool should help encourage.”

The facts

Crash risk is heightened by poor vision4: if you cannot see well, you may not see a hazard or person in time to stop, or you may not be able to respond to the environment around you at all. Road crashes caused by poor driver vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties and cost £33 million in the UK per year5.

Vision problems are very common – almost three quarters (74%) of people in the UK either wear glasses or contact lenses, or have had laser eye surgery to correct their vision6. Long- or short-sightedness is the most common7, and can affect anyone at any age.

Drivers with visual field defects (problems seeing objects in their central or peripheral vision) have double the incidence of road crashes and traffic violations compared to drivers with a full visual field. Almost half of people with visual field loss are unaware of the problem8.

Several health conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, cataract and glaucoma, can cause serious and sometimes permanent damage to eyesight. These conditions are more common in people aged over 50, but can affect younger people too. They must be reported by drivers to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in the UK9.

Read more at www.brake.org.uk/facts

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