Is there a blurred vision on eyesight?
How are your rods and cones faring? The human retina contains two types of photoreceptor cells, known as rods and cones. Cones allow us to see fine details, and give us colour vision, but rods are better at sensing movement, and thus aid our peripheral vision.
Even in healthy individuals, these photoreceptors decrease in density with increasing age, the decline affecting more rods than cones. The size of our visual field decreases so that by the time you reach your 70s and 80s, you may have a peripheral visual field loss of 20 to 30 degrees.
In case you are wondering if you have picked up a poor man’s version of The Lancet, I’ll explain where this is going: following a recently commissioned report, BRAKE and insurer RSA are calling for the Government to tighten up rules on driver eyesight and demanding the traditional number plate test be replaced with a compulsory full vision test. The test would be undertaken by a qualified professional at the start of a person's driving career, with subsequent mandatory re-testing every 10 years linked to driving licence photocard renewal.
The RSA report concluded that crashes caused by poor driver vision account for an estimated 2,900 casualties and cost a staggering £33 million per year.
We’ve all been held up by drivers timidly proceeding in front of us because they just can’t see where they are going, unexpectedly jamming on the anchors, and narrowly missing parked vehicles and other obstacles.
Currently, the UK requires only that drivers self-report being able to read a standard number plate from a distance of 20 metres on applying for their first licence or renewing it after 70 years of age, and should be able to read a new-style number plate at a distance of 20 metres in good daylight every time they get behind the steering wheel.
The number plate test is undertaken formally only at the driving examination test itself. The detailed test proposed would include measurement of visual acuity, field of vision, twilight vision, glare and contrast sensitivity, and other visual functions that can compromise safe driving. Static visual acuity and reduction in field of vision are the defects most likely to cause problems in traffic, with the former affecting steering control, and reading road signs. In fact, it is also suggested that mental workload is affected by acuity and that on longer journeys, increased mental workload increases the risk of acute fatigue and consequently, the likelihood of accidents.
Most people would still be able to obtain a licence as eyesight correction would be by use of glasses, or a minor operation.
There is a cost to all this, of course. No-one has proposed how the additional eye tests would be paid for, at around £22 a throw, but one has to assume optometry may be a good career to get into with at least half a million tests being required annually for initial licence applications and regular renewals. Then there are all those extra sets of glasses, at an average of £145 a pair.
In the meantime, while a change in legislation is being pursued, the call is for drivers to self-regulate by taking regular eye tests every two years. Changes in vision can occur gradually over a period of time and, as such, a driver may not realise they have a problem with their vision.
My question to you is, as managers of fleets of professional drivers, do our companies have a moral responsibility to provide free eye tests for our employees? And, where corrective glasses are required, how do we ensure our employees make that purchase and subsequently wear the darned things, because I have a feeling that this will get picked up as a ‘must-have duty of care responsibility’ once the planned campaign gathers momentum.