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Making sure vision and driving stays on the agenda

Lady driving Free NHS Home Eye Test, Home visiting optician, Free eye test, free glasses, mobile optician, West Midlands, Birmingham, Solihull, Dorridge, Knowle

“Making sure vision and driving stays on the agenda”

The AOP’s PR and media manager, Serena Box, discusses the establishment and effectiveness of the AOP’s driving awareness campaign, Don’t swerve a sight test.

The principle behind Don’t swerve a sight test was not new we’d been campaigning on vision standards for driving for some time. Roadside tests have shown that many drivers fall below the required standard as their eyesight changes over time. Our clinical and regulatory team also frequently takes calls asking about the best approach when a patient ‘s vision is no longer good enough to drive. Our Voice of Optometry project helped bring vision and driving to the fore, but I don’t think anyone anticipated just how stark the results would be; that one in three optometrists had seen:

“One in three optometrists had seen patients who continue to drive with vision below the legal standard, against advice”

Patients who continue to drive with vision below the legal standard, against advice. That was the turning point and we launched our Don’t swerve a sight test campaign on 14 November 2017 — reminding motorists nationwide that good vision is a crucial part of driving safely.

The results of our Voice of Optometry survey felt uncomfortable. Potentially it meant that thousands of people were driving with substandard vision. Everyone looking at the findings were also acutely aware that many would be older drivers and may not realise that their vision had deteriorated.

We wanted to address the issue, but we didn’t want to scare people away from having regular sight tests or make them feel like their independence was under threat. With that in mind, the campaign deliberately used softer messages and called on the Government to update the UK’s inadequate requirements.

We counterbalanced our campaign with public perceptions, showing that a third of motorists have doubted their vision when it comes to driving. The visual comparison of vision standards in Europe also illustrated how the UK lags other countries.

Don’t swerve a sight test achieved a huge amount of attention when it first launched. We secured 159 broadcast hits, reaching a combined audience of over 111 million people. The campaign gained further recognition in September 2018, when a police initiative saw four forces carry out roadside sight checks on drivers. Our message was referenced in coverage from over 250 media outlets. Despite such high pick-up of the first campaign, our second Don’t swerve a sight test campaign was also widely reported when it launched on 7 November 2018.

During the first week we had 27 radio interviews, six print articles and 185 online articles. It also had renewed focus when Prince Phillip was involved in a car accident in January 2019; showing the Association of Optometrists to be an established voice in this space.

The Don’t swerve a sight test campaign has rallied support from in and outside of the profession. Importantly, the message has gained some traction where it matters. Following the first Don’t swerve a sight test campaign, the matter was raised as a question in Parliament and the DVLA has since added an additional line on its reminder letter for licence renewals highlighting the importance of regular sight tests. We were also heartened by the Government’s July Road Safety Statement, which commits to considering mandatory sight tests at 70, and at regular intervals as part of the licence renewal process.

The campaign continues to gather momentum. But while progress has been made, the Government’s response remains slow. The Road Safety Statement may commit to research looking at how far poor vision is a UK safety issue, but our argument has always been that one death on our roads due to poor vision is too many. We’re making sure vision and driving stays on the agenda by increasing our collaborative work and by diversifying the way we reach the public.

Driving Vision Standards

Driving is an essential part of many of our lives, providing us with independence and convenience. However, it also comes with a large amount of responsibility, part of which is ensuring our eyesight meets the legal driving standards.

​A number of vision standards apply for different driving licenses. Our qualified optometrists will check your eyesight using various techniques and advise if it is inline with the applicable DVLA vision standards. There are three main areas assessed which are listed below.

You must be able to read a car number plate registered after 1st September 2001 from 20 meters away. You must also have a minimum eyesight standard of at least 6/12 measured on a snellen chart, using both eyes together or one eye if that is the only eye you have sight in.

If you are a lorry or a bus driver, you will be held to a different requirement standard. Our optometrists will advise whether you require glasses or contact lenses to meet the applicable standards. 

Peripheral vision is essential whilst driving and minimum levels are set by the DVLA. We can assess your peripheral vision using a variety of different methods. The most common of which is a visual field screener which plots a map of your peripheral vision by the user detecting a series of light stimuli presented in their peripheral vision.

A range of eye conditions can affect your driving. It is essential to receive regular eye examinations to ensure your eyesight is in good health.

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