Commercial and passenger transport insurance broker, McCarron Coates, is warning fleet managers and courier companies that the driving capabilities of their drivers could have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, through failure to take an eye test.

McCarron Coates is emphasising one of the messages of Eye Injury Prevention Month in the USA – that eye injury can be caused through a lack of care over eye health. This reminder comes after Eye Health UK says 5 million routine eye appointments were missed during the pandemic, raising fears that serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, are going undetected.

Reinforcing concerns, the UK Ophthalmology Alliance and Royal College of Ophthalmologists both warn that 10,000 people in the UK are at risk of irreversible eyesight damage, having missed care during lockdown. In some areas, 50% of patients failed to attend urgent appointments. UK-wide missed appointment rates were 30% in March/April and 20% in May.

Glaucoma is known as the thief of sight, with sufferers able to lose up to 40 per cent of their vision to this disease without realising. Past figures have shown 700,000 people in the UK suffer from diagnosed glaucoma; many more could suffer and not know.

Road crashes attributable to poor vision already cause a suspected 2900 casualties each year, at a cost of £33m. Worryingly, 1.5m driving licence holders have never had their eyes tested since gaining their licence.

The 2017 death of three-year-old Poppy Arabella Clark, led to calls for a tightening of the law, after it emerged that the 73-year-old driver responsible for the death had ignored warnings not to drive because of poor eyesight. In 2018, research by the Association of Optometrists showed that 35% of patients still drove despite having illegal standards of eyesight.

McCarron Coates says poor eyesight is a lethal killer and fleet managers need to act fast and do their due diligence, by both insisting that employees have regular eye tests and by carrying out ongoing vision checks via the 20m (65ft) number plate test.

It adds that poor vision is the hidden enemy within fleets, causing ongoing insurance claims, easily put down to driver error, unless there is a closer examination of the reasons for them.

Any driver out on the road and driving with illegal eyesight standards faces serious repercussions, including loss of licence and a £1000 fine. Penalty points could also be added to a licence, potentially leading to a driver’s livelihood being placed in jeopardy.