There is no question that some drivers are out and about on our roads peering through windscreens with eyes like rheumy oysters and they wonder why they have accidents. Now, a well known and responsible motoring organisation has called for more stringent eyesight testing for drivers. This debate is a hardy annual that sprouts, er, annually, yet with typically consistent lassitude the government does nothing about it.
As a lifelong specoid myself I know of what I speak. As someone who drives ‘professionally’ as it were, I get an optician to give my mince pies the once over regularly and change lenses accordingly. The value of a good optician cannot be underestimated; a fact that a well-known high street chain ‘that we should have gone to’ would do well to note.
The call is for drivers to have their peepers checked every ten years and even that, I would suggest, is a generous time gap. The current ‘number plate’ eyesight test was introduced in 1937 and has only been amended in minor ways over the years to reflect changing number plate sizes. In 1937 the airship Hindenburg crashed and Wilbur Shaw won the Indianapolis 500 at an average speed of 113mph. We’ve moved on a bit since then but the driving eye test has not. It is the only vision examination drivers are required to undertake until they reach the age of 70. In these days of busy roads and a million diversions that’s just daft.
The driving eye test is outdated, as it only measures visual acuity (sharpness). A pro eye test at provisional licence level could also quite easily examine a driver’s field of view to check whether motorists can see and react to what’s happening around them. Then it can be repeated at intervals. A certificate could be sent to the DVLA electronically, like an MOT, at the required periods. The State does not need to be otherwise involved – after all we would require this new system to work properly from the outset.
Our eyesight changes and deteriorates, in general, slowly. The brain behind the pupils adjusts to suit, which is why you hear people in restaurants saying indignantly ‘there’s nothing wrong with my eyesight’ even as they are peering at a large print menu like Mr Magoo. I know such a person. So do you.
And don’t be going on about civil liberties and the like either. Driving with poor eyesight is taking a liberty with the lives of others. As you well know, there are enough bad drivers around without having to contend with the ‘Oh sorry, didn’t see you there’ brigade. It is, officially, your responsibility to ensure fitness to drive. You must inform the DVLA of any medical conditions that will affect your driving. Your medical professional may say when you need to do this, but it is a good idea to ask “will this affect my driving?”
After all, you know what insurance companies are like when it comes to a claim; if they can find a reason to bail on the payout then they will. “What’s that Sir? You coughed three hours before the accident happened? Oh dear…”
You don’t even have to wear Gregory’s. You can buy some of those little lenses that fit onto your eyeball. Alright for some but not my scene, thanks. What happens if they slip around the back of your eye? They’ll fall down the middle like Alice down the rabbit hole and end up in your stomach I reckon. I’ll bet there are people out there now who rattle when they walk.
If you take your driving seriously and want you and yours to remain safe on the roads then you know it makes sense. Even if you think your eyesight is adequate it may be not be. Do you have to squint at stuff? Get glasses. Do you walk into the glass doors at B&Q? Off you go to your local eye doctor. No excuses. Geoff Maxted