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Poor sighted drivers put lives at risk

Press release: 03/09/2010

  • 5.3 million motorists admit to driving with incorrect vision [1] , including:
  • 4.2 million drivers who don’t currently wear glasses but confess their vision is 'not perfect' and continue to get behind the wheel [2]
  • 1.1 million motorists who are prescribed glasses for driving but admit to not always wearing them [3]

Despite 45% of all motorists being prescribed glasses or contact lenses for driving, almost one in ten fail to always wear them, risking the safety of themselves and other road users as well as the threat of getting a conviction, a fine and the accompanying points.

In research conducted amongst motorists for LV= car insurance, 4.2 million who don't currently wear glasses admitted their vision was 'not perfect' although they still drive and 1.1 million drivers who are prescribed glasses or lenses for driving said they don’t always wear them whilst behind the wheel.

Among the 53% of motorists that don't currently wear prescribed glasses or lenses, the statistics reveal that nearly a quarter (23%) confess that their eyesight is 'not perfect', and around one in ten (11%) admit to finding it difficult to see at night and one in twenty (6%) say they struggle to see in poor weather.

Yet despite these problems a third of these motorists say they haven't had their eyes tested in the last five years with a further one in eight (13%) saying they either had a test over ten years ago or they have simply never bothered.

Aside from the number plate reading test in the driving exam, drivers are not currently legally required to have an eye test until they are 70 years old, although medical experts recommend that all drivers have an eye test at least every two years , regardless of whether they think their eyesight is okay for driving.

And in a test among 256 randomly selected drivers, one in ten (9%) were unable to make out a number plate just over 20 metres away on their first attempt. This rose to 18% of all drivers aged 55 and over .

If motorists drive when they cannot see clearly and do not meet the visual requirements, they could be fined £1,000, receive three penalty points or be disqualified from driving. If drivers are involved in an accident caused by their lack of vision they could be charged with reckless or dangerous driving and potentially face a prison sentence. All three of these convictions will significantly increase car insurance costs.

The reasons given by motorists that are prescribed to wear glasses but don't bother doing so were mixed. Over half (57%) admitted they simply forget to wear them some of the time, a further third (32%) said they don’t feel its necessary for them to wear them regardless of medical advice, and 8% said they don't like wearing or they had lost their glasses.

Amongst all motorists who have not had an eye test for five years or more, reasons cited included (33%) 'I've never got round to it', the expense (10%) and lack of time (7%), with some even deliberately avoiding eye tests because they do not want to have to wear glasses or contact lenses (5%).

Tony Russell, optician with online glasses retailer SelectSpecs.com, commented: "Eye care is often neglected, especially by people who have never worn glasses before. Regardless of how accurate you feel your eyesight is, it generally changes over time and it may not be immediately noticeable because you tend to get used to imperfect vision as it slowly deteriorates. It is recommended that you have your eyes checked at least every two years."

LV= is urging motorists to heed professional advice by always wearing their glasses or lenses when driving and undergo an eye test at least once every two years. New EU legislation is set to be introduced in 2011, whereby holders of private licences will be required to have their eyes tested every 10-15 years, with holders of commercial licences tested every five years.

John O'Roarke, LV= car insurance managing director, said: "The number plate test is a compulsory requirement of the driving test for a very good reason. However, this is no substitute for regular eye examinations as eyesight can change significantly over time. Driving with poor eyesight is a criminal offence and can result in a fine, penalty points or even a ban, as well as invalidating your car insurance when it comes to making a claim."

Research amongst drivers was conducted by Opinium Research. Opinium Research carried out an online poll of 2,490 British drivers from 1 to 5 July 2010. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

Live research amongst 256 randomly selected drivers across the UK was carried out by PCP research from 29 June and 17 July 2010.

[1] The Department for Transport estimates there are 34.7 million full driving licence holders in the UK. According to Opinium research, 23% of drivers that don't wear glasses admit their vision is 'not perfect' and 7% of drivers that should wear glasses don’t always wear them. Equal to 15.3% of all motorists = 5.32 million.

[2] According to Opinium research, based on 34.7m (the total number of drivers), 53% are not currently prescribed glasses and of these 23% admit their vision is not perfect. Equal to 4.229m.

[3] According to Opinium research, based on 34.7 m (the total number of drivers), 45% are currently prescribed glasses and of these 7% admit to not always wearing them behind the wheel. Equal to 1.09 million drivers.

[4] According to the RNIB: "Having an eye test at least once every two years should be part of everyone's health care routine. Many causes of sight loss are preventable if they are caught early by visiting an optician.- http://www.rnib.org.uk/EYEHEALTH/Pages/eye_health.aspx

[5] Drivers were given three attempts to read a number plate. The first number plate was positioned a little over 20 metres away for a new style number plate, a little over 20.5 metres for an old style number plate. Drivers who could not read the first number plate were shown a second, slightly closer but still a little over 20/20.5 metres away. If they could not read either of the first two number plates they were shown a third, positioned exactly 20/20.5 metres away. Under these conditions, 9% of drivers were unable to read the first number plate shown to them."


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