Safe driving depends on good eyesight. We look at the tell-tale signs that your vision is getting worse and that you might be a danger to yourself and others.
As a car driver, you’re used to booking in your vehicle for its annual MOT and regular service. Our health also needs frequent checks – especially if you drive a car or ride a bike. Road Safety Week runs from 19-25th November, drawing attention to the danger of our roads and the importance of having your eyes and ears regularly checked.
An eye test could be the difference between life and death
The DVLA sets a clear legal requirement for visual acuity: drivers must be able to read a number plate from 20 meters, with or without glasses or contact lenses (that’s 0.5 Log MAR, or 6/12 on the Snellen scale, if you’re interested). Once you have passed your driving test, it’s up to you to tell the DVLA if your eyesight has changed (if you’ve just started wearing glasses or you’re diagnosed with an eye condition such as glaucoma for example).
But there’s a problem with self-reporting changes in our eyesight: many people simply don’t realise their eyesight is getting worse. Changes over years or decades can slip by unnoticed.
A 2012 study by insurance group RSA indicated that poor vision can cause almost 3,000 casualties each year. And that’s why some police forces across the UK are now performing spot checks on drivers’ eyesight. Yes, your eyesight could be a police matter.
Do I need an eye test?
We recommend everyone should have an eye examination every other year. If you’re experiencing any of the following changes to your eyes, it could be time to book in that eyesight MOT:
- Any changes to your vision (especially at night), such as halos or flashing effects
- Eye infections/discharge
- Frequent headaches/migraines
- Eye fatigue
- Sensitivity to light
Hearing test for driving
Your hearing is helpful for general awareness while driving, but not essential. If you have partial or even complete hearing loss, you can still drive a car.
This doesn’t mean you don’t need regular hearing screenings. Hearing loss can affect anyone at almost any age (if you’re over 25, your hearing may have already started to degrade).
A short, regular assessment will help identify and track any changes over time. If you’ve noticed any of the following symptoms, it could be time to book a hearing test:
- Trouble hearing conversations or parts of conversations
- Difficulty hearing in noisy environments
- Turning up the volume on your TV, smartphone or radio
- Ringing in your ears
- Trouble talking on the phone