Renewed focus on driver eyesight as we get back behind the wheel

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

As Covid-19 restrictions have been mostly easing across the country, many Australians will be back behind the wheel again more than in recent months. Whether it’s dropping the kids off at school, commuting to work or hitting the road for a weekend drive, Australian roads are already seeing a return of drivers.

With this comes a renewed focus on driver eyesight and a reminder of the dangers that poor vision can pose while driving.

According to Optometry Australia’s 2020 Vision Index one in five middle-aged Australians find it difficult to read road signs while driving. Among Australians who drive regularly, 22 per cent admit they squint at night to “see better”, while eight per cent have trouble seeing traffic lights at night.

Poor eyesight can have severe safety implications and it is vital drivers take accountability for their vision to improve road safety for all. Alarmingly, according to data from the 2020 Vision Index, only two-thirds of Australians who fail eye tests when applying for their driver’s license, get their eyes examined afterwards.

With some Australian drivers refusing to take accountability for their vision, optometrists are working with the police to look at ways to implement road-side eye testing in a bid to have safer drivers on our roads.

One Hobart optometrist dedicated to ensuring Australians are adhering to driving vision requirements is Ben Armitage. Mr. Armitage is working on an invention designed to quickly and accurately test a driver's vision on the side of the road. The device, known as ‘Acuidrive’, replicated the standard six-meter reading test practices many Australians will be familiar with, and is applied to a driver’s field of vision to reveal five small letters.

Such a device would enable police officers to enforce the legal requirements for drivers in Australia, which is currently a visual acuity of 6/12 or better in both eyes, with or without glasses or corrective lenses.

Technologies like Mr. Armitage’s are still in development and several years away from being implemented on Australian roads; therefore, in the interim, it’s important Australians undergo regular eye examinations and monitor their vision while driving. Not only is this imperative to drivers’ safety behind the wheel, but it’s vital to the safety of the broader community and other road users.

Attitudes of denial among drivers or hesitation to undergo regular eye examinations are worrisome, particularly when the vast majority of vision difficulties while driving can be easily corrected with glasses.

If you’re concerned about your vision, either on or off the road, contact your local optometrist for expert advice or to book an eye examination.

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