Elderly motorists warned of eyesight issues affecting driving

Data from the Association of Optometrists (AOP) found two-thirds of people who wear glasses or contacts are “putting off” paying for vision correction. A further 19 percent of people who need glasses to drive have not had their eyes tested for three years or more, potentially breaking driving laws.

As a result, the AOP and Specsavers warned these admissions from drivers of all ages were putting all road users at risk.

Recent research from the Department for Transport into collisions involving older drivers shows that this failure was a contributory factor in 42.6 percent of accidents involving drivers aged over 70. 

Police forces around the country are set to conduct roadside vision screening, with anyone caught driving with uncorrected defective eyesight will be breaking the law.

Those motorists will face a fine of up to £1,000, three penalty points and possible disqualification.

Warwickshire Road Safety Partnership is working with IAM RoadSmart to provide free Mature Driver Reviews for drivers aged 65 and over.

The aim of this is to help drivers continue to drive for as long as it is safe to do so by providing an informed and trusted opinion on their driving, improving skills and reassuring family members.

Drivers must be able to read a car number plate from 20 metres away (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) to meet the legal minimum eyesight standards. 

The number plate must be made after September 1, 2001, and be read easily.

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Drivers can check their eyesight themselves by reading a number plate from 20 metres away, or by going for an eye test.

Generally, drivers should have their eyes tested every two years and more occasionally if advised by their optometrist. 

The optometrist will be able to tell people if they have an adequate field of vision and test the acuity on a standard eye test chart.

In 2021, the Older Drivers Task Force said consideration should be given to introducing mandatory eyesight testing with an optometrist for elderly motorists.

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The organisation claimed this proposal could provide motorists with an “MOT of eyesight” when they reach 70 and have to renew their licence every three years.

It said this proposal could provide the drivers with an “MOT of eyesight” at the time of licence renewal for those over 70.

Alastair Lockwood, eye health specialist and ophthalmologist at Feel Good Contacts, urged drivers to get checked and remain safe when behind the wheel.

He said: “If you feel your vision is getting worse, you should visit your optician and get an eye test as soon as possible. 

“Your optician will tell you if a new prescription is required or refer you to an eye specialist if you have a severe eye condition, which you need to declare to the DVLA.

“If you need to wear glasses or contact lenses, you must wear them every time you drive. You do not need to inform the DVLA if you are short-sighted, long-sighted or colour blind.”

There are a number of medical conditions which must be reported to the DVLA when applying for a licence, including any problems which could affect eyesight.

These include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

These common conditions cause reduced visual acuity, night blindness, distorted and blurred vision that will negatively impact their driving.

During a standard driving test, the examiner will ask the motorist to read a number plate on a parked vehicle correctly.

If they fail the eyesight test, the DVLA will be informed and the test will be over, or their licence will be revoked.

Lorry and bus drivers must have a medical and vision check when they first apply, then every five years from the age of 45 and every year from the age of 60.

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