With Christmas traditionally one of the busiest periods on Australian roads, drivers are being reminded of the impact poor vision can have on road safety.
According to Optometry Australia’s 2020 Vision Index one in five middle-aged Australians (35-54) find it difficult to read road signs while driving during the day, and 22 per cent of drivers squint to “see better” while driving at night. Alarmingly, only two-thirds of Australians who fail eye tests when applying for their driver’s license get their eyes examined afterwards.
Victorian transport agency VicRoads has recently released some new fact sheets outlining the importance of undergoing regular eye examinations, with some eyesight conditions affecting a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.
Good vision is critical for road safety in order to see and respond to the external environment including signs, signals, pedestrians, other vehicles and hazards. It’s also essential for safely completing common manoeuvres such as lane changing, merging, negotiating intersections and parking safely.
To help drivers better understand the link between vision and road safety, Optometry Australia has collated responses to commonly asked questions from drivers.
How often should I get my eyes tested?
For most people, eye examinations are recommended every two years. For those aged 65+, yearly eye examinations are recommended, and for those with specific health conditions, more frequent eye testing may be necessary. If you notice any changes or irregularities in your vision, you should see your eye health professional immediately.
What do I need to do if I have impaired vision?
It’s important to speak to your eye health professional early on so that you can understand your condition and the potential impacts to your life, especially when it comes to driving as vision impairment may increase the risks to yourself and others on the roads. It’s vital to know how your condition may impact your driving now and in the future, so you and eye health professional can put a plan in place to manage this.
Do I need to let my state or territory driver licensing agency know about my eye condition?
All drivers are required by law to notify their state or territory if they have a long-term, chronic health condition or disability that could affect their ability to drive safely. This includes common eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and loss of vision in one eye, in addition to other medical conditions like diabetes and stroke that can also affect vision. Talk with your eye health professional for guidance about this.
What are the legal vision requirements for driving?
The legal requirement for drivers in Australia is currently a visual acuity of 6/12 or better in both eyes, with or without glasses or corrective lenses. As a rough guide, this means being able to see a number plate clearly at 20 metres away, though this cannot be relied on to judge whether someone’s eyesight passes the legal requirements. If there is any doubt it should be measured by a doctor or optometrist.
Depending on any medical conditions and your visual acuity, you may be issued with certain requirements for holding a driver’s license. For instance, if you have poor night vision you may be issued with a conditional license that stipulates no driving at night.
If you’re concerned about your vision, either on or off the road, contact your local optometrist for expert advice and to book an eye examination.