Every year more than 7,000 British drivers lose their licence as a result of poor eyesight, new research has revealed.

Figures uncovered by insurance company Direct Line through a Freedom of Information request show that 19,644 drivers had their licences revoked between January 2017 and September 2019 because their eyesight did not meet the required standard. That’s the equivalent of 134 drivers per week, or more than 7,100 a year.

The figures also show that an average of 12 people a week fail their driving test before it has begun because their eyesight isn’t good enough. According to the government, all drivers must be able to read a clean number plate in daylight from a distance of 20 metres - something that is checked by an examiner before the driving test begins.

Night driving eyeglasses on car arm rest

However, it seems that most drivers aren’t having their eyes tested regularly to find out whether they’re up to scratch. Direct Line quizzed 2,000 UK adults and found that a fifth (21 percent) have not had their eyes tested in the past two years, while three percent confess to never having had an eye test.

Perhaps more worryingly, a quarter of respondents (24 percent) said they would rather wait until their licence was revoked, rather than voluntarily giving up driving because their eyesight had deteriorated. And Direct Line says people are “unwilling” to report friends and family with worsening eyesight to the DVLA, with only four percent of respondents having taken that course of action.

Elderly man in glasses driving a car

Steve Barrett, head of motor insurance at Direct Line, said drivers should take regular eye tests to make sure they aren’t putting themselves and others at risk.

“If people do not have regular eye tests, they may not even realise their vision is impaired when they get behind the wheel, which leaves them a danger to themselves and other road users,” he said. “A simple eye test, that takes a moment in time, can ensure drivers have the appropriate corrective glasses or contact lenses so that their vision is adequate to drive.”

Senior patient checking vision with special eye equipment

And Dr Nigel Best, clinical spokesperson for Specsavers opticians, said eye tests could uncover changes to our vision that we might struggle to notice.

“Our vision can deteriorate slowly, meaning it is sometimes difficult to detect a change ourselves but subtle variations can increasingly affect both perception and reaction time when driving,” he said. “We welcome this research and hope it will make more road users aware of the risks they run by not having regular eye tests, whether it is potentially losing your driving license or worse, causing a collision on the road.

“It takes around 25 minutes for an optician to conduct a thorough vision and eye health check. To take this simple step every two years or more, if recommended by your optician, isn’t an arduous task, particularly when you weigh up the potentially negative consequences of driving with impaired vision.”

Optician in surgery giving man eye test