01.02.2012

Are British drivers risking people"s lives?

Are British drivers risking people"s lives?

By Alexa Kaczka

Many people would not think twice about getting in the car and nipping down the road to pick something up from the shops, as it is a journey they have made hundreds of times without any trouble.

However, a new survey has revealed that hundreds of thousands of motorists in the UK are potentially putting the lives of other people, as well as their own, at risk by driving with defective vision.

That is one of the main messages being stressed in a new campaign launched by Ultralase and the road safety charity Brake.

Research carried out by the two organisations shows that a third of Brits are unable to see properly whilst driving, with driving at night, distance vision and reading road signs all common problems among millions of drivers, with one in five Brits' poor vision having led to at least one driving related incident.

These range from minor bumps such as damaging their vehicle, to more serious road crashes, and as a result the two organisations have launched the nationwide campaign, which calls for compulsory eye tests for all UK drivers.

Some 2,000 drivers across the UK were polled for the study, which found that 20 per cent of Brits have taken an eye test in the past two years, if at all, to determine whether their vision is good enough for driving.

In addition, of those who need visual aids, one in three admit to taking at least two journeys each week without the glasses or lenses they have been prescribed to wear, with the most common reasons for such trips being shopping, meetings and general errands.

This is despite seven in ten being fully aware of the risk they are posing to their passengers and fellow road users.

When questioned about their last journey taken with impaired vision, more than 25 per cent of respondents did so with their partner in the car at the time, with a further one in ten driving with their children as passengers.

Tony Veverka, chief executive of Ultralase, said the survey findings make for "very disturbing reading", and highlight how the nation's motorists are becoming more and more flippant with their sight when driving.

"This relaxed attitude shows not only in the risks that motorists are taking but through the lack of standard testing for licence holders too," he added.

By law, motorists currently have to be able to read a registration plate at 20 metres, but Mr Veverka said this is "in no way sufficient".

"The ways in which your eyes are tested whilst actually driving are far more varied and complex than that. For instance, your prescription (should you have one) can be dramatically different at night, when your pupils are dilated, and this is just one of many reasons that make the current system is so obsolete," he explained.

Martin Howard, spokesperson at Brake, said it is "shocking" that so many drivers with poor vision are risking their lives by not taking the simple step of wearing their glasses or lenses at the wheel.

Making sure people can see properly is fundamental to safe and responsible driving, he explained, urging drivers to remember the "appalling consequences" that can result from poor eyesight at the wheel.

Mr Howard advised motorists get their eyes tested at least every two years, and never drive without glasses or contact lenses if they require them.

Mr Veverka concluded: "Through our partnership with Brake, we have seen the devastating effect that road crashes can have on families’ lives. By campaigning together, and calling for more thorough driver eye tests, we hope to avoid such incidents going forward and get Britain to take sight more seriously, especially where a vehicle is involved."

by Emily Tait


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