Recent government statistics have revealed that around 3,000 road casualties every year are due to the poor eyesight of the driver. Possibly more alarming still is the estimation that there are 13 million drivers on UK roads (that’s one in five drivers) whose eyesight does not meet minimum legal standards. This makes them a staggering four times more likely to have an accident.
Wouldn’t you like to know if any of these drivers are driving for you?
How does poor eyesight affect driving ability?
It is estimated that 90% of decisions made when driving depend on having good vision. Poor vision not only affects a driver’s ability to see and then react to hazards, but also makes it more difficult to detect dangerous changes in road surfaces and to focus properly in low light conditions.
The law stipulates a minimum standard of eyesight for all drivers, which at its most basic requires drivers to read a number plate at 20 metres, with glasses or contact lenses if necessary. However, this simply checks for a driver’s distance vision and there are also requirements for visual acuity and field of vision. The only way to check these is by having an eye examination with an optician.
Whether or not one of your drivers are involved in an accident, if they are found to be driving with an illegal standard of eyesight, you can have points added to your licence, face a fine of up to £1,000 or even lose your licence altogether. It can also invalidate your insurance. All very serious repercussions for someone who drives for their living, not to mention their employer.
Your Duty of Care
Health and safety law imposes a duty of care on employers to ensure that anyone who drives for work purposes must be fit to do so, including meeting eyesight standards.
Deterioration in eyesight generally happens very slowly and so drivers are often not aware that their eyesight is inadequate for safe driving. Given the fact that over a third of drivers don’t follow the advice of the DVLA to have an eye test at least every two years, then it’s up to you to take control.
Industry best practice states that you should check that your drivers can read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres when they are first employed and thereafter every six months. If they fail this simple test, they must take a formal eyesight test with an optician. The same check should be carried out if a driver is involved in an accident where they are at fault.
You might also consider asking your drivers to have regular, ideally annual, eye examinations. All your procedures should be documented and the results recorded so that you have evidence that you have fulfilled your duty of care.
With autumn and winter approaching, drivers are going to be soon facing the added hazards of a low setting sun, darker days and fog. With over five million eye examinations missed during the pandemic, it is more important than ever to ensure your drivers’ eyesight is as good as it needs to be.