Road safety charity Brake is calling for compulsory eye tests for drivers, following fears about the number of people killed or badly injured because of poor vision.
Each year it is estimated that road crashes caused by bad eyesight result in 2900 casualties and a £33million cost to the UK economy.
Brake believes there should be a requirement for all drivers to provide evidence they have had a professional eye test when they apply for a provisional licence and that they should visit the opticians at least every ten years thereafter.
The only measure presently in place to check a driver’s vision is whether they can read a number plate from 20 metres away. This is done before a driving test, but after that the motorist may never again need to prove that they can see well enough to drive.
A survey of 1000 drivers, carried out by the charity, found that a quarter had not been to the optician for over two years. More worrying still, four per cent of drivers admitted that they’d never had an eye test.
Julie Townsend, Brake’s chief executive, said a change in the law was a common sense move that would save lives.
“Making sure your vision is up to scratch is crucial to safe driving, and though it may seem there are plenty of excuses to put off going to the opticians, none is good enough when it comes to putting people’s lives at risk.
“If you drive, it’s not just your own health you are jeopardising by neglecting your eyesight, but the lives of those around you.”
The family of Essex woman Natalie Wade has backed the call for compulsory tests.
The 28-year-old was knocked over and killed on a pedestrian crossing, when out shopping for a wedding dress in February 2006.
It was later found that the driver, John Thorpe, was blind in one eye and had 40 defects in the other, but had not declared his sight problems to the DVLA. He died of natural causes before his trial was completed, but a coroner returned a verdict of unlawful killing.