All drivers ‘encouraged’ to have urgent eye test with elderly at risk

Dr Hilary discusses the risks for older drivers

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With melting ice and rain falling across the country as the weather heats up, wet conditions are posing significant risks to road users. Wet roads combined with winter sun and shorter days mean drivers need to be extra vigilant – especially when it comes to their vision.

Research shows that nearly a fifth of motorists (19 percent) who need glasses for driving have not had their eyes tested for three years or more.

New statistics from the Association of Optometrists (AOP) found that two-thirds of people who wear glasses or contact lenses are “putting off” paying for vision correction.

The AOP, as well as Specsavers, warn that these admissions from drivers are putting all road users at great risk.

A report from the Department for Transport into older driver collisions shows that this failure was a contributory factor in 42.6 percent of accidents involving drivers aged over 70. 

In comparison, failing to look properly before driving contributed to just 35.7 percent of accidents for all ages.

Because of this, experts at the RAC Foundation suggested that there is a “strong case” for requiring drivers to have their eyes tested when they renew their licence.

Late last year, the Older Drivers Task Force said consideration should be given to introducing mandatory eyesight testing with an optometrist for elderly motorists.

It said this proposal could provide the drivers with an “MOT of eyesight” at the time of licence renewal for those over 70.

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Many people are entitled to free eye tests on the NHS, including people aged 60 or over, those under 18 in full-time education and anyone diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma. 

If someone is over 40 and their mother, father, sibling or child has been diagnosed with glaucoma you are also eligible. 

Scottish residents aged between 16 and 60 can have a free NHS-funded eye test every two years and in the Isle of Man, eye tests are free to anyone on the NHS.

With as many as 13 million taking to the road for the drive home for Christmas, experts are warning that motorists need to stay safe when driving.

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Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director, commented on the research, and called on all drivers to make use of eyesight services to boost road safety.

He said: “While we all want to rush off to see our loved ones over Christmas, it is important we’re staying safe and having good eyesight is one of the most basic requirements of safe driving. 

“It means drivers will be able to spot potential dangers, see pedestrians and other vehicles, read road signs and judge speed, distance and movement. 

“Without this, there can be catastrophic consequences on the road – and even more so when changes to the weather make driving conditions precarious, which isn’t unusual for this time of year.

“While we want to encourage all drivers to have an up-to-date eye test to ensure that they can see clearly on the road, for those who do wear glasses, it is also important to ensure that their lenses are suitable for driving too.’  

When driving in the winter, when the air can be particularly cold, drivers will increasingly use the car heaters, which can blast out dry air, affecting eyesight.

One thing drivers can do is make sure heating vents are angled in such a way that hot air is not blowing into the face, as this can dry out eyes. 

Also – make sure to blink regularly, which sounds obvious – but blinking is the way we naturally refresh the surface of our eyes with fluid, preventing dryness.

This Wednesday (December 23) will see the Winter Solstice and the shortest day of the year, with experts warning this will have a significant impact on motorists.

Low light levels cause the pupil of the eye to become larger and this can accentuate any focusing errors – no matter how minor – causing blur. 

This is especially prevalent during wet weather, making hazards or obstacles harder to spot.

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