Specsavers calls for clarity over eyecare and work-related driving

November 2012

Research undertaken to check employers’ understanding of legislation covering the vision of employees who drive for work purposes has led Specsavers Corporate Eyecare to call for the rules to be updated and clarified.

The research was conducted among over 200 employers, in both the private and public sector, representing up to 356,611 employees. Specsavers believes this highlights the ambiguity of the current regulations, as over one-third (37%) of employers believe they, as the employer, are responsible for ensuring the adequate eyesight of employees who drive in the course of their work. More than half (57%) believe this is the responsibility of the individual employee and the remaining 6% just did not know.

Laura Butler, corporate account manager for Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, says: ‘This is a particularly confusing area of legislation. By law, each individual is responsible for ensuring they are fit to drive. However, employers have a duty of care. The Health and Safety Executive states that: health and safety law applies to on-the-road work activities as to all work activities and the risks should be effectively managed within a health and safety management system.’

The research goes on to ask which elements employers believe are included in a full eye examination and sight test to check eyesight is legally good enough for driving. Respondents answered as follows:

  • Ability to see at short distances 70%
  • Ability to see at long distances 77%
  • Ability to refocus between near and far objects 69%
  • Peripheral vision 69%
  • Reading a number plate at 20.5 metres 76%
  • Ability to see in different light conditions 72%
  • Don’t know 8%

In actual fact, to be granted a driving licence an individual still only has to be able to read a number plate from a distance of 20.5 metres. However, there are a number of other capabilities that are required for driving including peripheral vision, monocular vision and sensitivity to light conditions. An individual could pass the number plate test and then never have their eyesight checked again and either not notice, or not report, a decline in their vision. This deterioration of eyesight may only be discovered when it is too late and an accident has occurred.

Laura Butler says: ‘We are talking about the average employee who needs to drive to a meeting, to the post office or for a site visit; not professional drivers like couriers or lorry drivers. The regulations are ambiguous in that they appear to place responsibility on the individual but, if they are driving in the course of their work, this responsibility becomes shared with the employer. The actual vision requirements are equally confusing. If you pass the basic number plate test, you are legally allowed to drive. We want to highlight that there are, however, much more stringent eyesight tests that drivers are required to be able to pass. We would urge all drivers to have regular sight checks with an optician.’

The research found that employers support more comprehensive vision testing, with nearly three quarters (73%) believing that ALL drivers should have a full eye examination and sight test in order to drive. Specsavers Corporate Eyecare would also add to this that full testing should take place on a regular basis, preferably every two years.

Back to News