Chris Bennett: Missed chance to drive home message
Author: Chris Bennett
All is fair in love, war and PR so it’s a bit of a shame that an opportunity has been missed to press home the message on vision testing for older drivers.
Prince Philip’s prang in Norfolk last week couldn’t possibly have commanded more airtime. While questions were raised over older drivers’ fitness the media coverage concentrated on the way the crash was handled by the Palace and the lack of contact made with the unfortunate victim.
Given the circumstances of the incident, and the mess left behind, it appears most involved got off relatively lightly. But it could have been much worse. Any action taken to avoid a repeat seems desirable.
There is no evidence to say what elements contributed to this collision but some obvious factors were immediately raised. Mention was made of the low sun, the speed limit of the road and the age of the driver.
Within a day the local council had announced plans to reduce the speed limit and install cameras on the offending stretch of the A149.
It was left to the road safety charity, Brake, to renew its calls for annual sight and hearing checks for older drivers. Surely the optical bodies and pressure groups missed a trick in not raising the issue of vision among older drivers?
I should imagine Prince Philip has access to the best eye care available but what about the other 110,000 drivers aged over 90 who still hold licences? This was a good opportunity for optometry to show its worth.
Statistically young drivers are more of a danger on the roads than the elderly and the old shouldn’t be stigmatised unfairly. The fact is vision deteriorates with age. Few chances come along to put drivers’ vision on the national media stage, this was one of them.