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Is a Rethink of the Driver Eyesight Test needed?

January 7, 2016

GEM Motoring Assist, a leading road safety organisation in the UK, has called upon the government to introduce compulsory eyesight testing for all drivers at regular intervals throughout their time as a driver. They believe that better regulation of eyesight tests will play a role in cutting collisions and help to make the roads across the UK safer.

GEM believe that there should be a full driver’s visual acuity and field of view test every ten years, ensuring drivers are still safe to be on the roads. Speaking on behalf of GEM, their chief executive David Williams MBE asserted that ‘We believe it is unacceptable to operate a system where a driver can read a number plate aged 17 and carry on driving for 50 years or more without any eyesight check whatsoever’ and also that ‘We are worried that a large number of drivers have not had their eyes tested for many years – and some have never had a test.’

GEM are not the only road safety organisation to have voiced this concern and they are committed to this professional eye test element becoming compulsory for drivers, first when they apply for their provisional licence and then again every ten years.

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Currently the main test of driver’s eyesight is at the beginning of the standard driving test. It requires drivers to read a number plate from some distance allowing the examiner to tick the box confirming their eyesight is clear. That test hasn’t changed significantly since it was first introduced in 1937 and it remains the only eye test drivers have to take until they reach 70 years old.

GEM’s issues with this test include the fact that it only measures sharpness (visual acuity) in a driver’s vision and it doesn’t take into account a driver’s field of view which may be impaired and it would be very easy to make changes so it could incorporate this too, in addition to the professional eye testing that the organisation want to see put in place.

More and more drivers are staying on the road into their 70s and 80s so sight tests are more important than ever before and in GEM’s point of view it should be mandatory and ensure that drivers of all ages are still safe to be behind the wheel.

The government has committed to considering changes to the driving test and the way new drivers are examined before taking to the roads so perhaps there is scope for the eye test to be considered too.