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  • Writer's pictureEllis Wood ADI

Drivers caught out by winter sun and a fear of getting eyes tested

Dazzling sunshine has been responsible for over 33,000 road casualties in the last decade.

On average, this results in 653 road users being killed or experiencing serious injury every year. Cars are involved in the majority of casualties attributed to sun glare, making up 59% in 2021 and 63% across the decade.

Startling numbers

The Department of Transport (DfT) released 2021 figures, noting 2,369 casualties attributed to dazzling sun. Of these, 558 (24%) resulting in serious injury including 19 deaths.

A new poll by Glasses Direct in partnership with Transitions, surveyed 2,000 UK drivers. Half of respondents were legally required by law to wear prescription glasses when driving.

The survey found that 14% of drivers had been involved in a collision or near-miss because of impaired vision (i.e. sun glare) on the road. According to DfT, there were 1,774 collisions contributing to dazzling sun incidents in 2021.

Cant see the point

For drivers in the survey, three-quarters still wore non-prescription sunglasses to drive. This is despite more than one in three (37%) saying they struggled to see clearly without prescription lenses.

Furthermore, over half of drivers (55%) did not know if their sunglasses were legally appropriate for driving, and 71% had no idea what category filter their sunglasses were.

David Hutchfield, Qualified Optician and Head of Professional Services from Glasses Direct said: “If you need to wear glasses for driving — indicated by a 01 code under section 12 on your driving licence — then you must also get sunglasses that adhere to your prescription”.

He adds that it is worrying that “only 5% of drivers who are required to wear glasses (and have the code) could accurately identify it”.

Appointment with danger

Almost 1 in 5 drivers (17%) confessed they’d had their last eye test outside of the recommended 2 year check-up time frame. Over 6% admitted it had been 5 years or more since their last eye test.

The survey also found that drivers are willing to put others at risk for the sake of their mobility. Fear of losing their driving licence meant that 14% of drivers admitted they had avoided going to the optician.

Approximately 1.2 million UK drivers know they shouldn’t be driving but do so anyway. Also, 7% or 2.8 million, have delayed an eye test because they’re worried about losing their independence. A further 4%, or 1.6 million, know they need to go but can’t afford the required changes to their prescription.

Time for change

The changing o the clocks from BST to GMT at the end of October can be known to catch people out. Drivers often fail to consider how the time change affects safety on the road.

Only 5% of drivers think it is especially important to wear sunglasses whilst driving in winter months.

In support of Brake’s ‘Road Safety Week’, Glasses Direct and Transitions have teamed up with Dr Alex George, A&E Doctor, TV personality, and lifelong car fanatic to remind British drivers of road safety and how to adjust to the changing seasons.

Dr George said: “Low winter sun can pose a real hazard to drivers, but despite this, only 3 in 10 of us will consider how our route will be impacted before travelling, and only 1 in 3 drivers identified that west facing roads are most likely to be impacted by sun glare when driving at sunset.”

“It’s easy to be dazzled either directly or by the sun’s reflection on a wet road, so wearing the correct lenses, with prescription if necessary, can help reduce this and improve your visibility while you drive.”

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