In Glaucoma Awareness Week, Clwyd West Assembly Member Darren Millar has called on the Welsh Government to refresh its Road Safety Framework to include the need for regular eye tests to make roads safer.
It is estimated that crashes involving a driver with poor vision cause 2,900 casualties each year. Research by Vision Express and OnePoll research finds that 15% of drivers have not had an eye test since they passed their driving test – on average – 14 years previously.
This week in the Assembly, Darren hosted a Vision Express event to bring to life the dangers of driving with undetected glaucoma. One of the particularly worrying aspects of the condition is that because glaucoma affects peripheral vision first, sufferers can lose up to 40% of their sight without realising it, posing a serious danger to themselves and other road users.
Darren raised the matter in the Senedd this week when calling for a Statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport on road safety.
“Rates of glaucoma in Wales are pretty significant. Around 38,000 people in Wales suffer from glaucoma, with about 19,000 of those cases being undiagnosed and many of those cases will not be diagnosed until at least 40 per cent of peripheral vision has been lost.
“A number of Assembly Members sat on a simulator today to experience what it's like to have glaucoma as a driver, and I have to say, it's pretty unsafe. I think everybody crashed the car by the end of their time on the simulator. So, clearly, this is a big problem.
“I do know that the Welsh Government has a road safety framework. It doesn't mention in there the need for people to have regular eye tests. I know that I've written to the Cabinet Secretary in the past and that he's displayed on some of the roadside signs the need to have eye tests, but can I ask for a statement on the Road Safety Framework, because I do think it needs to be refreshed with reference to eye tests in there so that we can make sure that our roads are as safe as possible?”
The Leader of the House replied: “The Cabinet Secretary is indicating to me that he's happy to work with our colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Health to bring forward something as a result of the issues that the Member raises.”
Darren added: “It’s absolutely right that, to-date, efforts to improve road safety have focussed on speeding, drug and drink driving, driver fatigue and mobile phone use. However, there now needs to be a focus on promoting good eye health. After all, you wouldn’t get behind the wheel of your car if it didn’t have an up-to-date MOT, so why would you put your own lives and the lives of others at risk by driving with defective eyesight?”
Jonathan Lawson, Vision Express CEO, said: “The optometry industry does its best to keep this issue in the public eye but without more support from policy-makers, it's difficult to see how we're going to really shift driver attitudes. That's why Vision Express is calling on the Welsh Government to help us to raise awareness about the importance of regular eye tests for drivers and we would strongly support any efforts to spearhead high profile awareness raising campaigns such as those which have proven so successful in deterring the use of mobile phones and drink driving.”