Safety concerns for Public Sector drivers

April 2012

Public Sector employees who drive in the course of their work may be putting themselves at risk, as new research reveals employers’ safety concerns and knowledge gaps.

Specsavers Corporate Eyecare researched the driving policies and views of fleet managers and employers from 164 organisations, representing up to 414,000 employees across both public and private sectors. Shockingly, half (50%) of those responding from the public sector said they worry that some of their employees may be driving when their eyesight is not good enough to do so.

Just 65% (less than two thirds) of public sector fleet managers stated they knew the legal eyesight requirements for drivers in the UK. Worse still, over half (54%) did not actually know the legal requirements and wrongly identified the criteria. This compares to a third (34%) of fleet managers in the private sector who held misguided beliefs.

It would seem that public sector employers are concerned about the issue, with 93% believing that it is very important to ensure that employees who drive during the course of their work have their eyes tested. However, 40% have no policy in place at all to test the vision of their drivers and only 36% test all employees who drive for work.

Changes to legislation
The only legal requirement for drivers’ eyesight is currently the ability to read a number plate at a distance of 20.5 metres. Perhaps surprisingly, the government is currently considering lowering the standards for drivers’ eyesight by reducing the distance for the number plate test to just 17.5 metres. The majority of fleet managers (58%) opposed the Government’s plans on the grounds that it would make our roads less safe.

Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, comments: ‘Those who drive in the course of their work are at much greater risk than social and domestic drivers. In fact, RoSPA calculates that driving 25,000 miles a year on business is the third most dangerous activity in the UK, after deep sea fishing and coal mining. Far from reducing the standards for drivers’ eyesight, we are keen for the Government to implement fuller testing procedures. We believe that all drivers should undergo a full eye examination, including tests of acuity and visual fields, to determine that they are safe to drive. Responsible organisations have already implemented their own policies for driver eyecare. Some have even received financial rewards from insurers, and it offers a real boost to the organisation in terms of staff appreciation.’

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