John Hayes, the UK's Minister for Transport Legislation and Maritime, was invited to speak in the House of Commons on November 30th. In his speech to MPs, Hayes suggested Parliament require the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to promote regular vision screenings for all UK drivers.
Specifically, Hayes wants the DVLA to send out letters encouraging drivers to get a vision screening along with license renewal reminders. Hayes was formally responding to questions put to him by Scottish MP David Melvyn Linden.
While most public health officials praise Mr. Hayes's suggestions, some experts say he didn't go far enough.
Peter Hampson, the Association of Optometrists' (AOP) clinical director, pointed to recent statistics that suggested many UK motorists continue to drive with vision scores well below average. His suggestion was for all drivers to prove their vision "meets the legal standard to be granted a license and then every 10 years, thereafter.
"For its part, the DVLA said it introduced a new 12-week public health event in November encouraging motorists to get routine eye exams. DVLA spokespeople told the press that they've already begun publishing information on the importance of visual health on their blog and social media pages. It shouldn't be long before DVLA includes brochures on vision health in their license renewal letters.
After Hayes's comments were heard, Mr. Linden suggested working with Vision Express to encourage drivers to get annual vision scans. Linden said he would like to see Parliament work with this company every year during Road Safety Week.
The retailing optician company Vision Express already hosted an event by Westminster and Holyrood to raise awareness for this issue. 50 MPs were invited to these events earlier in the year, and Vision Express looks forward to planning more public awareness campaigns in the future.
In closing, Mr. Linden told fellow MPs about an electronic motor signage program that was rolled out in Scotland this November. Throughout Road Safety Week, Transport Scotland worked with Vision Express to put up informational signs on the consequences of poor vision while driving.
There's no word yet when the DVLA will include vision checkup pamphlets in the mail.
Most doctors say people over the age of 40 should get their eyes checked at least every year. Anyone under 40 without major eye health issues should see an eye doctor at least every two years.
Many serious eye diseases don't present visual symptoms until it's too late for doctors to reverse the trends. These potentially blinding diseases include age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. A routine eye exam could catch these diseases early and reduce the risk of developing blindness.
To find out more information on the DVLA's current vision standards, check out the DVLA's official website. The DVLA also has a Twitter feed and a LinkedIn page.