Millions of motorists risk driving with bad eyesight

  • Motorists who need glasses or contact lenses but drive without them increase their risk of an accident four-fold
  • A fifth (21 per cent) of motorists who need glasses or contact lenses always drive without them
  • 37 per cent haven’t had an eye test in the past two years or more
  • ‘Popping to the shops’ is the most common occurrence of driving without glasses or contact lenses
  • UK drivers risk invalidating their insurance, a £1,000 fine or could face prison if they cause an accident due to defective vision

New research1 reveals that motorists who need glasses or contact lenses but don’t wear them whilst driving, increase their chance of an accident four-fold. One in six (16 per cent) drivers has had an accident in the past two years but this increases to 67 per cent for those who need glasses or contacts but don’t always wear them.

The study from Direct Line Car Insurance further reveals that 13.3 million motorists are risking their lives and the lives of other road users by driving with poor eyesight as a result of not wearing their glasses or contact lenses with a fifth (21 per cent) of respondents saying they always drive without them.

More than a third (37 per cent) of motorists claim they haven’t had a vision test in the past two years or more, despite good eyesight being a basic requirement of safe driving.

The study highlights that it’s the short journeys to the doctors or supermarket where motorists are taking the most risks by driving with bad eyesight. Within the last year, 26 per cent of motorists have popped somewhere ‘local’2 without their glasses or contact lenses, compared to 15 per cent who didn’t wear them on a long distance journey (over 50 miles). Almost one in 10 (nine per cent) have not worn their glasses or contacts when taking their children to and from school.

Gus Park, director of motor at Direct Line commented: “Having good eyesight is a basic requirement of safe driving but our research shows that many motorists are driving without their glasses or contact lenses. Given that a person’s eyesight can change a significant amount in as little as six months or a year, we recommend motorists have their eyes tested at least every two years3 to make sure they remain safe on the road and reduce the risk of road accidents.”

According to the most recent government data4, 260 accidents in 2014 were caused by uncorrected, defective eyesight – nine of which were fatal accidents and 56 of which were serious. If a UK driver has been involved in an accident they could face up to 14 years imprisonment if they cause death due to dangerous or careless driving5 as a result of bad eyesight.

Park continues: “Driving with poor eyesight is illegal and can be as dangerous as drink driving. If caught, you risk invalidating your insurance, receiving a fine and in some cases, risk imprisonment. Remember also, that if your eyesight is below decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale, or you have an eye condition such as cataracts, you will have to inform the DVLA6. Drivers must also be able to read a car number plate from 20 meters - if you are asked to read one and cannot, your licence may be revoked and you could be prosecuted7.”

Men are more likely to not wear their glasses or contacts when driving (40 per cent) along with those aged 18 to 34 (60 per cent).

Notes to Editor

  1. Research conducted by Opinium 24 – 30 March 2016. Sample size is 2003 UK adults. 13.3 million has been based on those who rarely / sometimes / often / always drive without their glasses and/or contact lenses. This is 26% of the population when rebased to the whole 2003. Then 26% of the population (50,909,000) is 13,318,181.
  2. For example, local shops, doctor, dentist or petrol station
  3. http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1093.aspx?CategoryID=68&SubCategoryID=157
  4. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/reported-road-casualties-great-britain-annual-report-2014
    Last updated September 2015, next updated September 2016
  5. Guidance and definitions here: http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/road_traffic_offences_guidance_on_prosecuting_cases_of_bad_driving/
  6. https://www.gov.uk/driving-eyesight-rules
  7. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/503537/INF188X1_150216.pdf

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 300 7838 or visiting www.directline.com.

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