Dec 6, 2021

Eyesight and Driver Safety

Avoid risks, check your vision


The earlier sunsets and darker road conditions that accompany the winter months in the UK can make vision difficulties more noticeable to drivers. Around 2900 road casualties are caused by poor driver vision every year in the UK, and bad eyesight is recorded as a contributory factor in less than 1% of record crashes, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents(RoSPA,2017).

An estimated 1.8 million drivers are officially below the legal minimum standard of eyesight for driving (RoSPA 2017) and up to one third of all crashes involve someone driving for work according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Risks on the Road

It’s not just about disease or health conditions, glare is a distracting reflection that can affect all drivers. It makes your eyes less effective at focusing on what they need to focus on. Dry and uncomfortable eyes can also affect people at this time of year, especially if the vehicle heating is blasting warm air into the face. These kind of issues can be addressed relatively simply, with seat adjustments, eye drops, regular rest breaks, drinking plenty of water and wearing sunglasses.

The big issue that causes eyesight to worsen is age, and the one that affect us all is age. As you get older, your eyes naturally deteriorate. Different lighting conditions can take longer to adjust to depending on your age – the need for reading glasses may become clear if it’s harder to read the dashboard or the GPS.

Anecdotally, people who drive for a living are more sensitive to small changes in their eyesight and will notice a difference in the clarity of their vision at night and in daylight. For someone driving 100,000 miles a year in a lorry, a small change in prescription can make a huge difference.

What can we do from a Health and Safety point of view ?

Driver health is fundamentally important and driving risks should be managed like any other risks to the organisation. Vision is the most important sense for driving and many eye diseases can affect the driver’s ability to meet the required standard for various vehicle licenses.

When someone comes into work, you need to understand what they are bringing with them – weather that’s diabetes or poor eye sight. This is about being person centred and understanding who is in front of you.  Line managers and supervisors should lead these conversations about eyesight and other conditions with employees who drive. In the event of an accident, drivers should automatically have a sight test. Say one of your drivers has developed glaucoma but as far as you are aware, their vision seems as good as it was. But actually their sight could be a factor in that accident, the only way to be sure is to conduct an eye test. People who drive for work are sharing the same space as cyclists, pedestrians and other motorists. We must ensure that these drivers are not predisposing them to risk.