Road safety charity, Brake, is calling for the government to make eye testing for drivers compulsory after a survey revealed that 25% of drivers have not had their eyes tested in more than two years, despite research by the International Glaucoma Association and Royal National Institute for the Blind indicating that a person can lose up to 40% of their vision before recognising a difference.

According to the survey, more than 1.5 million UK drivers have never had their eyes tested. Eighty-seven percent of drivers are in favour of the measures, which would see them having to prove they have had a recent sight test every 10 years, when they are due to renew their driving licence. Research showed that making this law would reduce the number of road traffic casualties caused by poor vision by around 2,900 each year.

The only measure currently in place to check drivers’ eyesight is the number plate text carried out as part of driving tests, and occasionally if police suspect eyesight problems during a roadside incident. It is estimated that up to five million UK drivers would fail a number plate test if they had to retake it.

Brake is urging the government to change the law so that drivers must prove they have had a recent professional eye test when applying for a provisional licence, and at least every 10 years thereafter, estimating it would save the public £6.7 million a year by preventing crashes.

Imogen Wetton, serious injury solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Manchester office, commented: “The findings of this survey are alarming. The government needs to take decisive and immediate action to ensure that drivers’ eyesight is adequately tested. Think of the cost to the NHS and society generally of the accidents that are caused through poor eyesight.

“The government must take action but there is also a responsibility on drivers themselves. Driving is one of the most dangerous things we all do on a regular basis, and, if you get behind the wheel knowing you require an eye test, you are not only putting your own life at risk, but also the lives of any passengers and all other road users.

“Statistics show that the volume of traffic on UK roads is increasing, and so are the number of road traffic accidents. It is ludicrous if the government fails to take the simple step of introducing mandatory eye tests for drivers.”