‘Sharpen up’ - Interactive resource helps safety managers educate their drivers

Sharpen up’, developed by road safety charity, Brake, in partnership with Specsavers, is a free interactive e-learning resource to highlight the importance of driver eyecare.

Used by safety managers and employers within training sessions, workshops or online communications, ‘Sharpen up’ is an open-access resource to facilitate discussion and present the facts on the importance of drivers getting regular eye tests and maintaining good eye health. It can also be made directly available to individual employees simply wanting to find out more about driver eyesight.

Access the resource online now at brake.org.uk/sharpenupinteractive

Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, said: ‘As with all at-work activities, driving for work purposes comes under the employer’s duty of care and it is necessary, therefore, for every step to be taken to ensure each employee’s safety on the road. Providing eye tests is a simple, cost-effective, yet essential practice. It is also key, however, that the employees themselves understand the importance of taking up eyecare provision, visiting the optician regularly, and remembering to actually wear their glasses, if they need them for driving. We have worked with Brake to produce this simple and free resource, which helps to bring home the message of the importance of good driver eyecare.’

While the law has specific minimum requirements for visual acuity and field of vision, and employers have a share in the responsibility, in many cases drivers will only have their eyesight tested once – on the day of their driving test – using the rudimentary ‘number plate test’.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: ‘It’s vital for drivers to get their eyes checked professionally at least every two years – eyesight can deteriorate rapidly without you noticing. Our new ‘Sharpen up’ e-learning resource shows people the dangers of driving with poor eyesight, encouraging them to make that vital trip to the opticians.’

The facts

Lack of testing

A 2014 survey by Brake and Specsavers1 found that one in four (25%) drivers had not had a vision test in the past two years; and 4% (the equivalent to more than 1.5m UK drivers) had never had their eyes tested. A worrying one in eight (12%) who need glasses or contact lenses admitted driving without them.

Increased risk

Crash risk is heightened by poor vision2: if you cannot see well, you may not see a hazard or person in time to stop, or you may not be able to respond to the environment around you at all. Road crashes caused by poor driver vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties and cost £33m in the UK per year3.

Vision problems are very common – almost three quarters (74%) of people in the UK either wear glasses or contact lenses, or have had laser eye surgery to correct their vision4. Long- or short-sightedness is the most common5, and can affect anyone at any age.

Drivers with visual field defects (problems seeing objects in their central or peripheral vision) have double the incidence of road crashes and traffic violations compared to drivers with a full visual field. Almost half of people with visual field loss are unaware of the problem6.

Employer responsibility

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 makes it clear that, under health and safety law, employers have a responsibility for their drivers in a work-related scenario. The act requires employers: ‘to take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their activities when at work. This includes the time when they are driving or riding at work, whether this is in a company or hired vehicle, or in the employee’s own vehicle.’ [7]

The employer’s responsibility refers, therefore, to all drivers, whether they are employed specifically to drive as a main part of their role, or whether they are popping to the post office or attending an occasional meeting. 

Legal standards

Standards of vision for driving, set out by law state: ‘You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres. You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye. You must also have an adequate field of vision - your optician can tell you about this and do a test.’[8]


[1] Driver eyesight survey 2014, Brake and Specsavers - http://www.brake.org.uk/assets/docs/surveys/Eyesight%20Survey%20Report-Aug14.pdf

[2] Detailed cost-benefit analysis of potential impairment countermeasures: research in the framework of the European research programme IMMORTAL, SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research 2005

[3] Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers, RSA Insurance Group plc, 2012

[4] Britain’s eye health in focus, College of Optometrists, 2013

[5] Sixth Sense Opticians Survey, YouGov, 2011 

[6] Incidence of visual field loss in 20,000 eyes and its relationship to driving performance, Archives of Ophthalmology, 1983

[7] hse.gov.uk/roadsafety/employers.htm

[8] gov.uk/driving-eyesight-rules