Viscount Simon - Driving Blind is a political issue

As signatures for the Driving Blind petition near a milestone 3,000 – the same number as that of annual casualties caused by drivers with defective vison - it becomes apparent that the British public is serious about making roads safer by stopping people driving blind.

In my role as vice chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Transport Safety, I’ve championed the benefits of roads policing and how it has a positive impact on road safety and safer communities. A lack of funding has seen a 30% drop in the UK’s traffic police force in the last ten years, while the number of accidents has steadily climbed.  It’s hard to believe there isn’t a link between the two and there’s an obvious lack of recognition of the role that road policing plays in protecting our communities from harm.

It’s promising that three police forces trialled road side vision spot-checks during September 2018, but wouldn’t it be simpler and more resourceful to make eye tests compulsory for all drivers?   Police officers have enough to keep them busy without adopting the role of an optician too.

The Driving Blind campaign is sensibly calling for regular, compulsory eye tests for all drivers as part of licence renewal applications.  In the UK, unlike many other European states, drivers have to self-report and self-regulate their vision, despite evidence showing that they often neglect eye-exams.

A serious political re-think at the highest level is now required. That is why I’m saying no to driving blind, supporting the evidence presented in the Driving Blind manifesto and calling for a political debate.

Viscount Simon 

References:

https://www.evo.co.uk/news/19768/british-road-traffic-police-numbers-on-the-decline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I’ve signed the say NO petition and urge opticians to do it

Fiona Anderson, president of the International Opticians Association says, "I wholeheartedly support this campaign & have already gone online & signed the petition & would urge my fellow opticians to do the same. Any lives saved as a result of this initiative is a huge bonus. It is estimated around 3,000 casualties of road traffic accidents in the United Kingdom can be attributed to drivers with defective vision. I find this figure is staggering and the time to reduce this number is now." You can access the petition by clicking on the following link: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/221410


Drivers need good peripheral vision, as optometrist Mike Killpartrick explains.

Peripheral vision is a critical factor in a driver’s ability to judge the full extent of their surroundings, including hazards. Yet it is effectively neglected in the UK’s antiquated driving test.

It’s mentioned as ‘field of vision’ on the gov.uk website under information on drivers’ vision standards information. It says that this can be tested by opticians.

So what is it? We do not use our peripheral visual field for exploratory vision, but its sharp temporal sensitivity is key to navigating in response to sudden events.

You’ll recognise how you use it in supermarkets, when, in a split second, you avoid collisions with other shoppers and their trolleys, and kiddies appearing from behind.

Whether you are motoring, cycling or walking we largely avoid collisions through peripheral awareness and an optician will indeed test your visual field function quickly, cheaply and easily during your standard two-yearly eye examination.
Trouble is we’re not good at sticking to these exams. A Direct Line study in April 2016 revealed that 37 per cent of people had not had an eye test in the previous two years and you can lose 40 percent of your vision before you notice a problem.    In fact a Brake study in 2014 showed that 1.5 million UK motorists had never had their eyes tested.

And yet unlike other nations, the UK government thinks that self-assessment and self-reporting is good enough.  So we’re stuck with a set-up, where many of your fellow road-users have done nothing since they were 17 when they read a car registration plate at 20 meters to satisfy a driving test worker with no medical skills.

If that is the level of protection between you and a badly-sighted person driving a ton of metal, then we can safely call this a road safety disaster and a major public health risk.  Self-assessment is not fit for purpose with today’s traffic levels and faster cars.

I’m sure that not one of those 1.5 drivers unveiled by Brake would be able to tell you what the minimum visual field for safe driving is.  It was actually set by Moorfields Eye Hospital and the minimum is a field of vision of at least 120o on the horizontal meridian, should you want to know.

 The blindingly obvious solution to this #DrivingBlind crisis is for a change in regulation so drivers are required to provide evidence from an optical professional that their eyes are roadworthy before they get their licence and then at regular intervals over their driving career.

I’m campaigning on the streets of Bath and have been providing free eye examinations over two days during the Driving Blind campaign at Ellis & Killpartrick, 18 New Bond Street Bath. 01225 466954

Please say NO to Driving Blind and sign the petition now.


DVLA are tilting at windmills with helpful tips, says Nigel Corbett, Driving Blind campaign manager

The new DVLA campaign on drivers’ vision means well but could it lull drivers into a false of security, and let the Department of Transport think they’ve ticked the box for road safety vision this year?

On the face of it, DVLA reminding the public of the number plate test as “a quick and easy way to check they meet the minimum eyesight requirements for driving” is helpful.

They remind drivers that by law they must meet the minimum eyesight standards at all times including being able to read a number plate from 20 metres.

They urge drivers concerned about their eyesight to visit their optician or optometrist for an eye test, adding that it’s really important to have regular eye tests. Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time, they add, and we would add that you can lose up to 40% of vision without noticing it.

But while it is fine to explain what 20 metres looks like at the roadside and to say it takes just a couple of seconds, let’s not forget that all that’s happening here is a reminder of the meagre minimum standard set in the 1930s when few people drove cars, and when those cars were not the lethal ton of metal they are today.

Were we drafting their campaign messages we’d say that it’s advisable for drivers to visit their opticians at least every two years and certainly not just when they have a concern for their vision.

We’d also stress the need to measure peripheral vision, which only an optician can measure, and other aspects of vision that require a full eye examination.

In fact I’d argue that the campaign is tilting at windmills by targeting the public and behavioural change in the first place.

The DVLA has no choice to do this.  In the UK, unlike many other European states, drivers have to self-report and self-regulate their vision, despite a ton of evidence showing that Brits often neglect eye-exams. This leaves many oblivious of deteriorating vision, or reliant on DIY vision MOTs like this ‘5 car length’ tip offered, somewhat quixotically, by the DVLA, and which can create a false sense of security.

As all experts are saying, this is one for the politicians, not the DVLA.  The UK needs mandatory eye exams for drivers as part of their licence renewal applications, hence my Driving Blind Manifesto, which will be presented in the House of Commons.

Trying to educate drivers to change behaviours when you could change those behaviours with better controls is common sense.  If you have not done so yet, support this move by signing the petition at http://www.drivingblind.org.uk/.


Self-reporting is not fit for purpose says Neil Worth of GEM Motoring Assist

Road safety professionals are forever developing innovations to keep people safe on the roads. The Safe Systems approach is one such, offering real benefits. At its heart is the understanding that everybody makes mistakes that result in collisions. This sounds simple but when you add it to the need to mitigate the effects of collisions, the response to them and a shared responsibility from road users, government, vehicle designers etc it becomes a powerful tool.

Safe Systems has five pillars: safe speeds, safe vehicles, safe roads and roadsides, post-crash response and the one I focus on: safe road use.

The Government says Great Britain has one of the best road safety records in the world but that but that we still need to improve as one person killed or injured on the road is one too many. They are looking at Graduated Driver Licensing - to reduce the risks to young drivers who are over-represented in fatal and serious crashes - introducing it in N.Ireland as a pilot before rolling it out across the UK, are investing in a cycling strategy and their recent Road Safety Statement Progress Report highlights other areas of work with real road safety benefits.

There is, however, something that they’ve missed: eyesight.

As long as you can read a standard (post 2001) number plate from 20 metres, you’re OK to drive. When you sit your driving test, at say age 17, you’re asked to read a number plate and then off you go on the test. If you pass there is no further requirement to check your vision – unless you are stopped by the police or have a medical condition that you must declare to DVLA. You could drive for the rest of your life without having your eyes checked. Given you can lose up to 40% of your vision without noticing, this is scary.

Last week a colleague was with West Midlands Police researching an article for our members’ magazine, Good Motoring, about Operation Close Pass, which educates drivers how they should overtake cyclists and how much room to allow them.

In two hours they dealt with five motorists, two of whom failed the 20 metre eye test at the roadside. That’s two in five… Thankfully the police and DVLA can revoke driving licences in such cases and these drivers are now off the road, but surely it cannot be right that their sight was in that position in the first place? When did they last have their eyes tested? It seems that the self-reporting system that has existed since the 1930s is no longer fit for purpose and that, as part of the Safe Systems approach, we need to do something to mitigate the risk that poor driver eyesight presents.

That is why we at GEM have always campaigned for eye testing and that is why we are saying no to driving blind now.

By Neil Worth AMRSGB, Road Safety and Motoring Information Officer, GEM Motoring Assist


Bath residents and MP say NO to #Driving Blind

Wera Hobhouse MP rallies Bath to support petition

 I’m supporting the Driving Blind petition for statutory vision screening for drivers.  Bath and North East Somerset is the launch pad for an entirely new movement of people saying #Say NO to Driving blind, which I take great pride in.

If you care about road safety, please join me in Milsom Street on Friday July 27th, in the area near GAP between 1130 and 1230 am. I’ll be there with the #DrivingBlind campaign team, local supporters and road safety experts and the local media, in order to rally petition support.

Shockingly, most UK drivers can pass their test without having a full examination to prove their eyes are roadworthy and drive for the rest of their lives unpoliced.

We will be urging local residents to sign a petition to demand a political debate on this. We have posters, placards and social media resources to share.  All we need is a bit of your time.

Few of us know that UK regulations for drivers’ eyesight are among the weakest in Europe and rely on self-regulation and reporting.

Yet all we have in the UK is a basic vision test by a non-medically qualified driving test centre employee and this only considers drivers’ ability to read a number plate at a distance of 20 metres. It ignores other essentials such as peripheral vision.

This means that there is no medical rigour to confirm that most drivers are visually fit to drive.  It means that cyclists, pedestrians and motorists who have regular eye-tests are sharing the road with people driving a ton of metal who’ve never given their eyes an MOT.

The World Health Organisation says poor eyesight a key risk factor in road crashes, and yet still, the UK is out of line with many other countries.

We have road safety and ophthalmic experts urging politicians to change the rules.  Now we need the public to join the movement and that starts with Saying NO to #Driving Blind on Twitter and Facebook via @DrivingBlindUK #DrivingBlind

Sign the petition here www.drivingblind.org.uk

Email Kay and Kate at drivingblind@gravitaspr.co.uk with stories of your own experience and offers of support.

Let’s start a new movement right here in Bath!


Police and road safety veteran Says NO to #DrivingBlind

By Martin Cooke, trustee of GEM Road Safety Charity

I am supporting the campaign because of my experiences as a police officer where I dealt with a number of totally unnecessary crashes caused entirely by drivers bad eyesight.

 These drivers had depended on an element of luck, familiarity with roads or the instructions of others but sometimes it went horribly wrong. Most drivers attempted to justify the danger they had put themselves and other road users in and often knew of their impairment.

The circumstances varied, with one driver having a serious medical eyesight condition driving under strict instruction from their passenger on when to make any manouvre.

 Another, on a familiar route, counted lamp posts to know when they were approaching a junction.

 Most memorable was a crash where a driver with defective eyesight had hit and injured someone working beside a refuse lorry on the road. The well-meaning offending driver decided to follow the ambulance carrying the injured worker, only to have another crash within minutes of them setting off.

 This happened directly behind the ambulance and meant that the casualty gave me an unusual witness statement concerning not only the initial crash but then another looking back from his stretcher in the ambulance.

The GEM Road Safety Charity is the charitable arm of GEM Motoring Assist, and was set up in 1986 with the single purpose of keeping people safe on the roads.  GEM Motoring Assist was established in 1932 as the Company of Veteran Motorists.

 

Martin Cooke July 2018


Cyclists say NO to #Driving Blind

The Driving Blind petition for statutory periodic vision screening for all drivers is winning support from cyclists and their pressure groups, as we always knew it would.

We even see it turning into an entire new movement to #Say NO to Driving blind.

It’s not before time.  UK regulations for drivers’ eye-sight are among the weakest in Europe and rely on self-regulation and reporting. Road safety should start with good vision yet in the UK we let drivers pass their test without having a full exam to prove their eyes are roadworthy and then drive for the rest of their lives unpoliced.

Campaign manager Nigel Corbett is generating political support for his Road Safety Starts with Good Vision Manifesto, which calls for new drivers to be vision tested and certified, with follow-up tests over their driving lives.

The statistical evidence is overwhelming.  Surveys have shown that many motorists who suspect their eye-sight is inadequate, continue to drive.  Other studies have shown there are 3,000 road casualties on UK roads each year where poor vision is a key factor.  The World Health Organisation says poor eyesight a key risk factor in road crashes

With fatal accidents involving poor vision and cyclists clearly in the firing line, we cannot rely on public education to change behaviour patterns. We need to come into line with other countries.

We believe that under the weight of public support and expert opinion, UK politicians could be poised to make a road safety step-change.

Join the movement. Say NO to #Driving Blind on Twitter and Facebook @DrivingBlindUK #DrivingBlind See www.drivingblind.org.uk  Sign the petition at  https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/221410  and share your personal stories


Why I’m crusading against “driving blind”

Every day in Britain drivers risk their own lives and others’ and cause injuries.

Not because they’ve been drinking, speeding or using mobile phones – but because their eyesight is so poor they are effectively “driving blind”.

With 27 million vehicles on the UK’s congested roads, it is madness that our regulations governing vision screening for car drivers are among the least robust in Europe.

In short, they let a teenager pass the driving test at 17 by just reading a sign-plate at 20 metres held up by a driving text examiner.  That motorist can then effectively drive most of their life without ever having to prove they can see to drive properly.

Our call to Government couldn’t be plainer:  give this crisis the same weight as drink driving or text-driving and make regular eye tests for drivers compulsory.  Say NO to Driving Blind.

The UK statistical evidence is overwhelming. Few of us would ever drive with untested eyes if we knew that poor vision is a factor in 3,000 casualties a year and in 59% of accidents and that after the age of 40, eye disease, visual impairment and blindness trebles with each decade.

But as we know from a spate of recent deaths involving drivers who had been tested, and then told to stop driving before they went on to kill, knowledge does not always change behaviour.

Ideally, public education would do the job but self-policing will never work.  Studies show that while most people believe they meet the legal eyesight requirement for driving, only 60% can spell out what that is.  We can also lose 40% of our vision before noticing it.

Until Government and the DVLA make it mandatory for drivers from the age of 17 to submit evidence that proves their visual acuity and peripheral vision is adequate, we will continue to hear yet more tragic road accidents involving children, the old, the vulnerable, cyclists and motorcyclists.

I’m reaching out to everyone in my personal network to sign our Driving Blind petition, promote it on their personal networks, including Twitter and Facebook quoting @DrivingBlindUK and #DrivingBlind and share with me any media and political support you can muster.  Let’s all say NO to Driving Blind and use grassroots action to open the Government’s eyes.

Kay Williamson

Managing Director

Gravitas Public Relations