Your eyes are a vital tool when it comes to road safety, and since our eyesight is only checked when we take a driving test, it is up to us to look after our vision.
IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, has some tips to help you keep on top of your eyesight and what the implications may be if you were caught with impaired vision.
"We can all suffer from eyestrain at times, usually due to tiredness, if your eyes are healthy then it will disappear after a good rest. If you suspect a deterioration in your vision, you can do a simple check by reading a modern number plate from 20 metres away.
It’s important to compare your ability in varying light conditions and if there are any problems consult a specialist. Ageing brings a myriad of challenges to your eyesight and often they can be corrected with glasses or a simple medical procedure. If you do need glasses or lenses for driving don’t take a chance without them.”
Your eyes succumb to the wear and tear of ageing just as all parts of your body do. You may experience problems with vision at night or double vision, headaches, and eye strain. That's why it's so important you meet the legal eyesight standard for driving.
You may miss seeing hazards causing you to react late. Good vision allows you to read signs giving diversions and warnings. Driving with poor vision could mean you miss vital information that you need to see. Even the best drivers will find themselves straining their eyes at night. So, if you already have poor vision, you will be even more vulnerable, especially during dusk and nighttime.
Changes in your vision can be slow, which is why it is so important to have your eyes tested at least every two years, or right away if you notice a problem. If you have any problems with your eyes other than being long- or short-sighted or colorblind, you must inform the DVLA.
You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after September 1, 2001, from 20 metres away. In addition, you must have a visual acuity measurement of at least 6/12 (or 0.5) on the Snellen scale while wearing any glasses or contact lenses that you need for driving. If you’ve visited an optician, the Snellen scale will be familiar to you as the wall chart with the rows of letters or numbers that get smaller as you read down.
If you do not tell the DVLA about any medical condition that affects your driving, you could be liable for a fine of up to £1,000 and be prosecuted if you are involved in an incident.
Under Section 96 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, you can be pulled over by the police and asked to undergo an eye test. Remember, you are entitled to a free eye test on the NHS if you are over 60 or are over 40 and your mother, father, sibling or child has been diagnosed with glaucoma.
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