Road Safety Awareness Week

New study reveals 65% of drivers don’t know the minimum eyesight requirement for driving safely.

  • 67% of people surveyed believe drivers aged 60+ should not be allowed behind the wheel.
  • One in ten drivers break the law and do not wear their prescribed glasses when driving.
  • Men (53%) are more consistent in wearing their eyewear behind the wheel, compared to women (48%).

In 2019, around 7,000 people lost their licence because of their eyesight, which works out at 19 people per day.

To mark Road Safety Week , contact lens retailer, Lenstore surveyed 1,029 UK drivers to find out how often they wear their prescriptive eyewear for driving, when they last had a sight test, and their views around testing, driving and older generations on our roads.

65% of drivers don’t know the minimum eyesight requirement

The legal eyesight standard set out by the DVLA means that you must be able to read a number plate 20 metres away. Additionally, your eyesight must not be currently worse than 6/12 (decimal 0.5) on the Snellen scale.

How many meters away should you be able to read a registration plate in order to drive safely?Responses
5 meters8%
10 meters20%
15 metres11%
20 metres35%
25 metres12%
30 metres7%
35+ metres7%

When asked about the vision requirement, 65% of drivers gave the wrong answer, citing distance over or under the minimum standard, compared to just 35% of drivers who correctly answered.

Less than half of drivers wear their prescribed glasses 100% of the time compared to a third of contact lens wearers

Wearing prescribed glasses or contact lenses allows you to meet the 6/12 (decimal 0.5) standard. If you do drive on public roads without meeting this requirement, your licence may be revoked, and you could be prosecuted.

Less than half of divers (48%) wear glasses prescribed for driving consistently. Over a quarter of respondents (26%) wear their glasses half of the time whilst driving their car, and one in 10 do not wear them at all behind the wheel.

How often do you wear glasses whilst driving?Responses
I wear glasses 100% of the time whilst driving48%
I wear glasses 75-99% of the time whilst driving15%
I wear glasses 50-74% of the time whilst driving12%
I wear glasses 25-49% of the time whilst driving7%
I wear glasses less than 25% of the time whilst driving7%
I don’t wear my glasses whilst driving11%

Interestingly, 53% of men wear their prescription glasses 100% of the time whilst driving, compared to 44% of women.

People aged 55 and over are more consistent in wearing their glasses all of the time whilst driving (61%) compared to those aged 17-24 who wear them half as much (30.5%).

How often do you wear contact lenses whilst driving?Responses
I wear contact lenses 100% of the time whilst driving30%
I wear contact lenses 75-99% of the time whilst driving27%
I wear contact lenses 50-74% of the time whilst driving22%
I wear contact lenses 25-49% of the time whilst driving7%
I wear contact lenses less than 25% of the time whilst driving7%
I don’t wear my contact lenses whilst driving8%

Contact lens users are less likely to wear their prescriptive eyewear behind the wheel. Just 30% of drivers wear them all of the time whilst driving, with a third wearing them 25-75% of the time behind the wheel.

27% of people believe drivers who are caught not wearing their prescribed glasses or contact lenses should face a fine, while 15% believe they should receive a driving ban.

One in five respondents had an eyesight test over two years ago, which is the standard requirement

It’s recommended that everyone (driver or not) gets their eyes tested every two years. Our eyes deteriorate over time, so drivers should be aware of changes to their vision and if they become concerned, and arrange an eye test with their local optician.

Our study found 22% of drivers had their sight tested more than two years ago, compared to 78% who visited their optician within the recommended time frame. On average, drivers had their vision tested 1.5 years ago.

When was the last time you had an eyesight test?Responses
I have never had my eyesight tested0.4%
Less than six months ago24%
Six months, up to a year ago28%
More than a year, up to 2 years ago26%
More than 2 years, up to 3 years ago11%
More than 3 years, up to 4 years ago6%
More than 4 years, up to 5 years ago3%

Two in three people believe drivers over the age of 60 should NOT be allowed behind the wheel 

Drivers over a certain age can experience more difficulty on the road when it comes to their vision and their ability to react fast. However, it’s worth noting that many are perfectly able drivers going into their nineties, including the Queen.

According to the Department for Transport, 77% of those over 70 years of age hold a car driving licence. This is 10% higher for those aged 60-69.

Interestingly, the majority (67%) of people surveyed believe drivers over the age of 60 should not be allowed to drive on public roads.

One in five people believe drivers should have to retake their driving test every five years to ensure they are fit to drive.

The Association of Optometrists has previously called for all drivers to have a compulsory vision check when they first apply for a licence, and then when renewing their licence every 10 years (and every 3 years for over 70s). 68% of respondents believe drivers over the age of 40 should have eye tests once a year to ensure they are fit to drive.

Driving at night affects our ability to see when behind the wheel the most

Several conditions when driving can make our ability to see and drive safely more challenging.

Our eyes can be sensitive to light, magnified by rain or darkness. More than half of drivers (55%) experience some form of difficulty in seeing when driving in the rain because of their eyesight, and 59% experience difficulty when driving at night.

Condition% of people experiencing some form of difficulty in seeing
Rush Hour37%

Driving when tired can make it difficult to focus your eyes, and rush hour requires high attention. Results show 52% of drivers experience some form of difficulty in seeing when tired because of their vision, and 37% experience difficulty when driving during rush hour.

Roshni Patel MCOptom, expert optometrist, comments: 

“With several accidents still taking place on the roads as a result of poor vision, it is crucial for drivers to be receiving regular eye examinations. Motorists should take an eye test at least once every two years to ensure they are fit for the roads and not causing any dangers to themselves or others. If you experience a deterioration in your eyesight or a change in your vision it is important to arrange an eye test as soon as possible. Poor eyesight can lead to a slower reaction to things happening on the road which can therefore increase the chances of an accident taking place.

As well as getting your eyes tested regularly, drivers should also be extra vigilant when driving during particular times of the year and in certain conditions. For example in the winter months, the sun tends to rise and fall during peak commuter times, which as a result can impact the driver’s vision and prevent them from seeing. Drivers can take easy precautions such as always having sunglasses stored in their car, using their visor and ensuring their windscreen is clean. Allowing that extra distance between the cars around you and slowing down is another way to help reduce an accident in difficult visual conditions.”

Research credit: Lenstore.

Methodology & Sources

Survery conducted by Censuswide with 1,029 participants based in the UK

Gov UK Statistical Datasets – Reported Road Accidents & Casualties

The Geographist – City Populations

Lenstore has been changing the way consumers buy contact lenses since 2008 by making contact lenses fast, faff-free, and affordable.

We offer the big brand lenses our customers want, at small prices, delivered to their door. But our service doesn’t end here, our team of opticians and eye care experts are on hand to help you get the most out of your vision. Whether that’s help finding the right lenses, how to practice proper lens hygiene or even tips for how to manage hay fever. And we provide all our customers with free eye tests and contact lens checks.

Lenstore is here to help you manage your eye health in a way that suits you.

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