Quarter of motorists "not confident" they can see to drive

One in every four UK motorists say they would struggle to pass the police eye test check, which determines whether a driver’s eyesight meets the minimum standard.

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During the practical driving test, candidates must prove that they can read a number plate from 20 metres away, although they are allowed to wear their glasses or contact lenses for the test.

Keith Bell of The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents explains: “Legally, if the driver of a car can read a newer-style number plate (2001 or later), from 20m away, with or without glasses or contact lenses for long- or short-sightedness, they are classified as meeting the standards of vision for driving, but must wear their glasses or contact lenses when driving if necessary to read the number plate.”

However, there is no legal requirement for a driver to check their eyesight again once the test has been passed, and a poll by vehicle fleet management specialist Venson Automotive Solutions found that a quarter (24 percent) of the 200 people quizzed said they were either “not very confident” or “not at all confident” that they could read a number plate from 20 metres.

Short sighted woman holding eyeglasses before driving

Of some concern is the fact that more than half of those respondents (14 percent of the total) said they were “not at all confident” in their eyesight.

Perhaps almost as worryingly, though, just 39 percent of respondents said they were “very confident” that they could read a number plate from the prescribed distance.

According to Venson, seven in 10 (70 percent) of motorists have started wearing glasses or contact lenses since passing their test, but the company says that unless they drive for work purposes (in which case they are required to have regular eye tests under EU law) it is “impossible” for employers to monitor any changes to a driver’s vision.

Young business man driving car.

Simon Staton, Director of Client Management at Venson Automotive Solutions comments: “The fact that only 39% of respondents were very confident they would be able to read a number plate from 20m (65ft) away is very worrying. By law this check is only required before a person takes their practical test, there is no further legal requirement to check it again.”

“No business can afford to have an employee’s driving licence revoked on the spot. We therefore advise fleet managers and those responsible for duty of care for employees driving for company business, to ensure regular eyesight tests take place and any changes in circumstances documented. This will reduce risk of business liability as well as increase safety on our roads.”

Retirees Driving

The news comes just months after the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) urged motorists to take the so-called “number plate test” regularly to ensure they are fit to drive. At the time, the DVLA’s research suggested that only half of motorists check their eyesight on a regular basis.

Dr Wyn Parry, the DVLA’s senior doctor, said the number plate test was important for safe road use.

“Having good eyesight is essential for safe driving,” he said. “So it’s really important for drivers to have regular eye tests. Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time so anyone concerned about their eyesight should visit their optician – don’t wait for your next check-up.”