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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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The importance of healthy eyes for driving

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Meg Munn MP was invited to take part in an event on eye health and driving, it included GPs, optical professionals and road safety campaigners.  She has been campaigning on this issue since a constituent was killed by an elderly driver who had cataracts.  It was organised by the RSA Insurance Group as part of its ‘Fit to Drive’ campaign.

They discussed research funded by the Department for Transport to ascertain how aware health care professionals were about advising on fitness to drive. The study took place over 3 years and found very low knowledge about the requirements of the law. GPs with patients displaying health problems which cause a problem for driving would examine in depth the medical situation but not discuss driving. Indeed teaching about fitness to drive is absent from most medical schools.

A number of improvements were advanced, including adding a prompt about driving to GP’s computer screens in the way they are prompted on blood pressure monitoring. Representatives of GPs argued that if they felt more supported about tackling this issue they would be more likely to report. It was argued that patients put themselves at risk, not just other people, and that GPs generally give advice to patients on risks they face.

Optometrists welcome the fact that they are now allowed to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of concerns. The duty of care is recognised as being as important as the duty of confidentiality. There are also good examples of optometrists and GPs working well together to identify those at risk. New tighter regulations for HGV drivers mean that an eye test has to be done before the GP does the medical.

Campaigners argued for government to take the issue more seriously. Representatives from the Department for Transport said that they have limited funds for awareness raising, and the evidence of the number of accidents caused by poor vision meant that it had a lower priority than issues such as drink driving. Using the opportunity of sending out reminders about eye tests when licences are renewed every ten years was raised, along with the possibility of insurers doing the same on a yearly basis. Comparison sites for insurance premiums would also be a good place to advertise.

Meg said:

“Most people at this discussion felt that a strong link between eye sight and driving would be established if drivers were required to have an eye test when they first get a license and then at every renewal. Government has however shown itself reluctant to make testing mandatory, and therefore other options to raise awareness must be pursued.”

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