VSP Vision Care has welcomed reports that the Department for Transport is considering eye tests for drivers over the age of 70 as part of plans to improve road safety.
The DfT is also reported to be considering repeat assessments every three years thereafter, as it published figures showing that for the first time more than two thirds of people aged over 70 had a full driving licence.
The government’s figures revealed that 67% of people in the oldest age bracket, 70-plus, had a driving licence in 2018, up from 64% a year earlier.
The DfT told The Times that while ‘age should not be a barrier’ to driving, over time people’s cognitive and physical capability could decline with age, affecting reaction times and increasing the risk of an accident.
At present, driving licences expire when a driver reaches the age of 70 and must be renewed every three years. Drivers must declare the standard of their eyesight and reveal other medical conditions. However, there are currently no compulsory assessments.
Last year, over 4,600 drivers over the age of 70 had their licences revoked due to their eyesight.
As part of its recently published road safety plan, the DfT has said that a research programme will be launched with the Driver Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) to assess the risk posed by poor driver eyesight. This will consider the case for a new vision test to identify drivers who pose a collision risk.
A full public consultation will be held before any change is made, the DfT said.
Jeremy Chadwick, Managing Director, EMEA at VSP Vision Care, the world’s largest not-for-profit vision services company with nearly 90million members worldwide, said: “We would welcome mandatory eye testing for drivers who attain the age of 70 because eyesight can deteriorate without us noticing.
“We recommend having a professional eye test ideally every year or straight away if a problem arises. This should check vision over distance, as well as other visual defects, including problems seeing things in the central or peripheral vision.”
With many employees expecting to extend the length of their working years, Mr. Chadwick said that it’s more important than ever for employers to consider providing their employees with regular eye screening and full eye examinations where appropriate, with access to glasses if needed for driving.
“VSP offers comprehensive solutions for driving vision through our portfolio of WellVision Programmes. We also offer an online eye-screening solution, eScreen, that can be utilised at the employee’s own workstation to assess DSE compliance,” he said.
Approximately 2,900 casualties occur in the UK every year due to drivers having poor vision, at an estimated cost of £33 million, according to safety charity Brake, while the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) calculates that around 13 million motorists are not wearing the glasses or contact lenses needed to correct their vision while behind the wheel.
It is an offence not to wear corrective lenses if they are needed and, if caught without them, drivers could face a fine of up to a £1,000 plus three penalty points and/or discretionary disqualification.
Drivers who do not meet the standards of vision for driving and are involved in an accident invalidate their insurance, and could face imprisonment for up to 14 years if they cause death by dangerous driving and five years for death by careless driving.
However, poor vision is believed to be hugely under-reported in government crash causation data due to the difficulty in determining if eyesight was to blame.