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More work on drivers' vision standards is needed, says OC.

THE OPTICAL Confederation has warned that more work still needs to be done to bring drivers' vision standards up to scratch.

The recent clarification of the new eyesight standards for drivers follows the publication of a consultation by the DVLA on driving licence standards for vision. Although it was released on May 30, some of the changes came into force from May 1, with the remaining being implemented later this year.

Despite an initial proposal to reduce the number plate test reading distance to 17.5m, following further advice, the distance will remain at 20m.

Expressing disappointment that the number plate test remains, the Confederation is concerned that there is still no requirement for formal vision testing throughout a person's driving career, and that there is still a reliance on drivers to self-report relevant disabilities.

Stating its reasoning for retaining the number plate test in its current form, the consultation detailed the advantages it has over a sight test. They include:

* It offers an easy-to-use benchmark for drivers to continuously review their own eyesight and therefore is more responsive to changes in eyesight than more formal periodic tests

* It can be used by police for road-side enforcement purposes

* It minimises costs and burdens. The changes have been established following a consultation which sought views on the implementation of European medical standards for drivers.

Other main changes reported for Group 1 (car and motorcycle) drivers include:

* When applying for a licence, drivers must declare that they have never been told by an optician or a doctor that their vision is below the minimum standard required (6/12, 0.5 decimal)

* There is no requirement for 'an optician's certificate' at the driving test, or when you apply or renew your licence

* The onus is on the driver or applicant to inform the DVLA if a formal eye test reveals visual acuity of less than 6/12. The licence will then be refused or revoked

* Those who fail the number plate test, but meet 6/12 on Snellen testing will still fail and no 'exceptional cases' will be allowed for those who fail both tests.

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Speaking on behalf of the Optical Confederation, AOP clinical adviser Geoff Roberson, said: "Overall, the standards for Group 1 drivers seem to have been tightened slightly rather than relaxed as the DVLA had initially proposed. Although we welcome some clarification of the new arrangements, there are still many issues to be resolved"

Of the 31 consultation responses received by the DVLA, 17 expressed disagreement with the recommendations, urging that standards should be stricter.

Additionally, one respondent disagreed with the recommendations, stating they should be relaxed further, while 10 agreed with the proposals. Two agreed with some proposals and disagreed with others, and one gave no comment.

Road safety minister, Mike Penning, commented: "Road safety is a top priority for the Government, and our licensing rules have an important role in ensuring that Britain maintains its position as having some of the safest roads in the world. We must make sure that only those who are safe to drive do so, while at the same time avoiding placing unnecessary restrictions on people's independence.

"We believe that these changes strike the right balance in allowing as many people as possible to drive, without compromising safety."

Tighter restrictions for Group 2 drivers (buses and lorries) mean that, as well as meeting the standards for Group 1, if spectacles are worn to meet the required standards in either eye, the glasses must not exceed a specified limit.

Responses to the consultation can be read at, www.dft.gov.uk/ dvla/consultations.aspx

* The Optical Confederation will issue full guidance on all of the changes, including the new visual field standard for Group 1 drivers and revised visual acuity and vision correction requirements for Group 2 (lorry and bus) drivers, shortly.

Emily McCormick

emilymccormick@optometry.co.uk
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Title Annotation:NEWS EXTRA; Optical Confederation
Author:McCormick, Emily
Publication:Optometry Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 15, 2012
Words:646
Previous Article:Understanding the public.
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