Words From Behind the Wheel
This month marks Road Safety Week, and while motorists are required to ensure their vehicles are licensed and roadworthy, no priority is given to make sure the biggest safety consideration – the driver – has adequate sight.
New Vision Express research has revealed that while 92% of UK drivers believe they meet the legal eyesight requirement for driving, over 60% could not identify what this is. Worse still, 15% confessed to not having had an eye test since their driving test, which was, on average, 14 years ago.
To tackle this issue we have joined forces with road safety organisations, MPs and policy-makers to lobby Government to introduce ‘Eye Tests Save Lives’ signs to major UK roadways for Road Safety Week (21-27 November 2016). Here, our CEO Jonathan Lawson, shares his own experiences of driving and why having a regular eye test is a vital way for motorists to protect themselves and others.
Firstly, I love driving. I passed my test at 17 and my first set of wheels was a Mark 2 Golf with about 125,000 miles on it. It was a great little car. My older brother and I are a bit competitive, so I wanted to nail the test first time because it took him a few more goes.
I have three children and early next year my eldest son, who’s a bit of a petrol-head, will be taking lessons. He’s confident he’ll outdo me as a driver. He’s tried it on the go-karting circuit already. But I worked on a farm for seven years driving tractors and I’ve been behind the wheel of a tank, so he’s got a long way to go.
Working in retail inevitably involves a lot of time on the road. By that I’m talking over 30,000 miles a year. In 2016 I’ll probably have clocked up around 45,000. When I think back to when I passed my test – and from age 17 is a long time ago for me now – if I still had that same car it would be past its last legs, but like everyone, I’d routinely have had it checked to make it roadworthy. We all know we should make sure our tyre pressures are right, there are no cracks in our windscreen and we don’t drive without a valid MOT. So it’s a big concern that some people – and our research showed 15% of UK motorists – don’t have their sight checked after reading a licence plate from 20 meters during their driving test.
I try and get out to stores across the UK at least once or twice every week, so I’ve no excuse to not take care of my vision. Those visits could involve a 4am or 5am start and three-to-four hour drive each-way journey. Being behind the wheel for eight hours in one day isn’t out of the ordinary – but it can be really tiring.
For me, I’ve been driving like that for so many years now that it becomes second nature. But at particular times of year, especially during Autumn and Winter when it’s dark both in the morning and at the end of the day, I know I feel fatigued and that my concentration may not be quite as good as it could be.
We see more customers coming into our stores at this time of year because they’re noticing an impact too. Which isn’t surprising because we know that eyes work harder in darker conditions and operate differently than they do in the light. You become very slightly more short sighted in the dark and that affects your distance vision and your ability to anticipate road hazards. What’s more, your pupils get bigger and as a direct result, your eyes try to take in more information and tire more quickly.
Last year I started wearing prescription sunglasses for distance and they helped a lot, especially with polarised lenses. On the road polarised lenses reduce glare and can help you to stop seven metres shorter when travelling at 50mph – that could be the distance needed to avoid a collision. Finer details can be sacrificed too by tired eyes working overtime in the dark. If you’re driving at 70mph, being able to see a motorway sign one second earlier can make a huge difference.
When driving is part of your day-to-day life, it’s important to get the right advice on how your sight can be in the best possible shape. We found that 20% of drivers haven’t had an eye test in over five years. Because it’s possible for over 40% of vision to be lost without an individual noticing any deterioration, that’s millions of motorists who are putting road safety at risk unknowingly.
That’s why we’re so passionate about our campaign for Road Safety Week, calling for a reminder to be broadcast on major roads and motorways about a regular eye test. We’re all used to seeing signs on the roadside about tiredness and urging us to ‘take a break’. Crucially, ‘Eye Tests Saves Lives’ isn’t a headline, we know it’s a fact. And we’re thrilled that Transport Scotland and the Welsh Government are on board supporting this activity. We hope Highways England will see the benefit too.
It isn’t unusual for our teams to see somebody for an eye exam who is up and down the motorway every single day, yet in a consultation they can only read halfway down the letter chart. Quite often there’s no underlying health problems, no issues, they just needed a pair of glasses.
And there’s no better time to get your sight checked than with our free test on offer for Road Safety Week.
Vision Express is working with Aviva and the Road Haulage Association to offer members access to the best eye health care, in a bid to improve UK road safety and demonstrate its commitment to ‘Vision.Taken Seriously’.
For further information about Road Safety Week and how we can help motorists visit: www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk
To download your Free Eye Test voucher (valid until the 31st December, 2016) click here.