Having been in the optical business for over 16 years now, I think I’ve pretty much seen it all, and there’s not much that surprises me anymore.
There is always the one exception though, and that’s the irresponsibility of some people. A lot of criticism is given to young drivers, but not a lot is said of the older drivers who refuse to accept that their vision is too poor to drive safely. On too many occasions to even begin to count, I’ve seen older people, who have been told by the optician that they are illegal to drive when wearing their current glasses prescription, and they just shrug it off as they think they know better. In their opinion, their vision has hardly changed, they think they know better than the optician, and they can see fine.
Since eyesight usually deteriorates slowly and can easily go unnoticed, drivers need to take note of professional help rather than rely on their own judgement as to how good their eyesight is.
The optician can tell what people can see at any distance, including the legal distance for driving. If they fail the legal driving distance of being able to see a number plate at 20.5 metres, then they will most certainly inform the patient, and record it on the patient records. Unfortunately it isn’t down to the opticians practice to inform the DVLA, it is the individual person who has the responsibility to cease driving until their vision has been corrected. Certain eye conditions must be reported to the DVLA such as Cateracts, Glaucoma and Double Vision. Drivers must be able to see clearly through the corners of their eyes, and be able to see clearly to drive in the dark.
Once the patient has left the testing room, the results are always recorded, so if I’ve seen that person before they’ve left the shop I’ve always diplomatically explained that their insurance will not be valid should there be an accident, but still people think they know better than the optician.
As a lot of older people are sensitive to light, a tint on the lenses is often preferred as it makes the eyes feel more comfortable in sunny or hazy conditions. However, it is illegal to drive at nigh time with anything more than a very light tint. (Transitions are fine as they are clear at nigh time) An additional pair of clear glasses would be required for night driving. This is seen by some people as just the opticians shop trying to sell you another pair of glasses. Wrong, they’re trying to keep you and all the other people near you safe while you’re on the road.
It seems that with some people the possibility of points on your license or even a jail sentence isn’t enough reason to take note of what an expert saying to you. I know I’d prefer not to be on the same road as quite a few people I have met in the opticians shops I’ve worked in over the years.