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