Blog: When it becomes clear you need an eye test

Eyesight deteriorates gradually so many drivers do not realise they need glasses or contact lenses.

Eyesight deteriorates gradually so many drivers do not realise they need glasses or contact lenses. - Credit: PA

With calls for eye tests every 10 years for drivers, motoring editor Andy Russell tells of how he realised he needed glasses.

I can read a vehicle number plate at 20 metres without my glasses so, if I didn't know better, in theory I can drive without them.

But, having worn glasses all my waking hours for the best part of 25 years, I wouldn't dream of getting behind the wheel without them. It would be like not wearing a seat belt, except without my glasses it wouldn't just be myself I was putting at risk but everyone else on the road... and probably the pavement too.

A gradual, natural deterioration of your eyesight can just creep up on you but there comes a time when you can't ignore the warning signs that you can't see as well as you used to.

Road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist is calling for compulsory detailed eyesight testing for all drivers every 10 years. It says the 'number plate' eyesight test is outdated and drivers don't legally have to get their sight checked until they are 70 and renew their licence.

I can still remember when I realised I needed glasses for driving and, at the time, it came as a shock.

I was on the launch of the second-generation Rover 800 partnered with a regular co-driver motoring hack in the passenger seat. I could see perfectly well as far as I was concerned – after all, I have my eyes tested every couple of years.

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We were on roads I did not know and the co-driver asked why I slowed down every time I approached one of those big direction signs – even though I was within the speed limit – and then accelerated again. I'm surprised I did not have a vehicle behind running into the back of my car given that I was slowing down for what appeared to be no reason.

It got me thinking and made me realise that the reason I had to slow down was to have long enough to read the sign when it was clear enough having come within my range of vision.

I wasn't due an eye test, but went for one anyway, and found I was borderline for needing glasses for driving instead of only for reading and working on a computer.

With a new prescription I started wearing glasses for reading and the benefits really were clear to see. It wasn't until I started to do so that I realised what a difference they made.

Not only could I read road signs further away, so no longer needed to slow down, but brake lights in the distance appeared much sharper and no longer slightly blurred and 'starry' so I could plan and react earlier. Driving at night or in poor visibility, such as when it was raining, was much easier too.

I had an early start at work this week so was driving in the dark. I was in a queue of traffic trundling along behind a car travelling at 35 to 40mph on unlit roads but they went up to 50mph whenever there were street lights, before slowing again.

It made me think they might need their eyes tested. I did and I never looked back.

Did you have a shock which made you realise you could not see properly to drive? Email motoring@archant.co.uk