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Warning of eyesight risks in drivers
[Posted: Fri 03/02/2012 by Eimear Vize www.irishhealth.com]
One in three drivers are unable to see clearly behind the wheel, and one in five admit they have had an accident as a result of poor eyesight, according to a recent survey of motorists.
These findings have prompted a call by the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) for compulsory eyesight tests to be introduced for all drivers at each application for a driving licence and renewal.
It warns that some drivers with poor eysight may be slipping through our system of sight test requirements for driving licences.
A total of 186 people tragically lost their lives and thousands more were injured on Irish roads in 2011, according to new statistics released by the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
Although this is the first time that road deaths have fallen below 200 since they were first recorded in 1959, the RSA warned against complacency and urged motorists to ensure that this better driving behaviour continues.
Having good eyesight is one of the most basic requirement of safe driving, but a recently survey of 2,000 motorists in the UK revealed that one in three motorists, who require visual aids, regularly drive their cars without their prescribed glasses or contact lenses.
This risk is taken despite about 70% of those surveyed being fully aware of the risk they are posing to their passengers, fellow motorists and pedestrians.
Not surprisingly, one in five motorists confessed to having at least one driving incident as a result of poor vision, whether it was damaging their vehicle or a road accident.
"It must be borne in mind that the eyesight requirements here in Ireland are more stringent than the UK, where simply reading a test number plate at the test centre is all that is required," Lynda McGivney-Nolan, spokesperson for the AOI, told irishhealth.com
The UK rules state that driving test candidates must be able to read a number plate at 65 feet - with glasses or lenses if they need them - before the driving part of the test. But it's relatively undemanding and only 1,500 to 2,000 people fail each year.
Tougher eyesight test controls were introduced by the RSA in January last year with the adoption of a new EU directive on drivers' vision. Eye exams are now required to include high levels of visual acuity (how well you can see things in front of you at all distances) as well as good peripheral vision (visual field horizontally and vertically).
It also should test for contrast sensitivity, glare sensitivity and ocular motility (ability of the eye to move), which are important for safe driving.
"Now any person applying for a licence or renewing a licence who wears glasses or contacts must have this detailed eye exam, but also, any person over the age of 70 must have an eye exam every time they apply for a licence. The eye test can now be carried out by an optometrist, which prior to last year was not the case," explained Ms McGivney-Nolan.
However, the AOI believe that these new stringent vision tests not being implemented across the board by everyone who carries out a driver eyesight examination.
Also, some people who wear glasses, or need visual aids but may not be aware of that fact, and omit this detail from their licence application, are not required to submit an eye test result.
"While we are delighted that these advances have been made, there are still some loop holes we would like to see closed," Ms McGivney-Nolan stressed.
"As optometrists, we feel very strongly about these rules being implemented across the board by everyone who carries out a driver eye sight examination and to my knowledge this is not yet the situation.
"In addition, any person under the age of 70 who completes the renewal form, and states that they do not need glasses for driving, are not required to have an eye examination to renew the licence.
"Clearly this is ridiculous as people can fill out the form without realising that perhaps they need glasses to drive safely; they are now ten years older and their eye sight has deteriorated.
"We would like to see mandatory eye sight testing at every application for a licence and renewal," she urged.
The latest RSA road collision statistics (2009) reported that more than 9,700 people were injured of in road traffic accidents, or which 640 were seriously injured.
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