News

In Focus: Drivers’ vision from the frontline

Optician research highlights alarming findings around drivers’ vision. Simon Jones reports

New research conducted by Optician on drivers’ vision has uncovered concerning data from high street optometry practices about patient attitudes towards eyesight standards while behind the wheel.

The research, conducted throughout April, had a sample size of 669 practitioners, with headline figures including more than a third (35.6%) of practitioners seeing more than 10 patients in past year whose vision was not fit for driving, and 59% of respondents being aware of patients driving against advice from an optometrist.

Highlighting just how large the scale of the problem was, just 7% of respondents said they had seen no patients in the past 12 months whose vision was not fit for driving. For the 1-4 patients bracket, it was 33%, 5-9 patients accounted for 24% of the total, and the 10+ patients cohort totalled 36%.

Optician then asked if practitioners were aware of any drivers that were driving against the advice of an optometrist. Very much in line with existing research, 59% said they were aware of drivers that continued to get behind the wheel against advice. The remainder of 41% said they were not aware of any patients who drove while advised not to.

Current College of Optometrists advice on this subject, states: ‘If you consider a patient does not meet the vision standards for driving, you should advise them not to drive. If the patient continues to drive, and you cannot persuade them to stop, you should contact the DVLA and inform the patient.’

 

Standards

Asked if they thought current vision standards for driving were sufficient, 40% believed they were, with 60% saying they were insufficient. Last year, the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) launched a consultation to review how sight tests were administered.

The Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has also issued a call for evidence about driver licensing for those with medical conditions, but says there are currently no plans to introduce compulsory eyesight tests or further medical tests for motorists.

However, practitioners at the sharp end want to see tighter regulations and more action from the government in order to achieve them. Asked if they would like to see roadside vision checks become more common, 85% said they would. Asked if they felt the government should be doing more to amend regulations, 93% said it should.

One of the ways in which more could be done would be to introduce regular fitness to drive revalidation. Asked if they agreed whether senior drivers should revalidate their fitness to drive, respondent support was overwhelming. Strongly agreed accounted for 41% responses, with an additional 48% saying they agreed. Just 12% were in disagreement, split equally between disagree and strongly disagree.

Glare

Last month’s news (Optician 12.4.24) that the Department for Transport intended to carry out an investigation into the impact of glare from car headlights will be welcomed by most drivers. According to Optician’s research, it is an issue that patients complain to their optometrists about on a regular basis.

More than half (57%) of practitioners say they hear patients complain about headlight glare or dazzle on a frequent basis, but a significant number of patients (34%) complain about it to their optometrists every single day.

Optometrists and dispensing opticians are in the perfect place to advise on issues such as glare and the vast majority (85%) recommend specialist driving lenses to patients. Taking a more cautious approach to dispensing were the 15% that did not recommend them.