Blink and you won’t miss it – eyesight tests could be dropped from driver’s licence renewals under proposals that aim to push licensing online.
The Ministry of Transport has proposed a one-off vision test for drivers when they first apply. For renewals, people would simply have to declare they can see properly.
Eyesight testing for licence renewals has been controversial. The majority of people who fail the tests are later told by their optometrists that their vision is fine for driving.
Studies done for the ministry have found there are few safety benefits from frequent eye tests, and a discussion paper said the changes could save up to $13.7 million over the next two decades, mainly through cutting time spent travelling to licensing agents.
The studies found people who failed vision tests and were forced to wear glasses were no safer on the roads than before they failed. People with undiagnosed eyesight problems were at no more risk of crashing.
“The studies, which suggest there is no discernible road safety benefit from the current frequency of vision testing, are one input into the decision-making process,” ministry communications team leader Lesley Reidy said.
Most people with bad vision know it, and get glasses. You certainly can be unaware your eyesight has deteriorated, but it has to be pretty bad for it to affect your driving. As they say, the research is that the vision tests do not improve road safety.
However, optometrist Jack Crawford questioned those studies, and said vision safety should not be sacrificed for a more convenient system, “especially when the science behind it isn’t that strong”.
Hmmn, who makes money from vision tests?
THE PROPOSED CHANGE
* The proposal would require people renewing their licences to declare they are not aware their vision has deteriorated since their last renewal, or that any deterioration is being managed by glasses or contact lenses.
* This would not apply for commercial licences, and people over 75 who would still need vision checks through the medical fitness process.
Keeping them for over 75s is sensible.