Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers

  • Published: RSA Insurance Group plc, 2012
  • Authors: Deloitte Access Economics
  • Date Added: 26 Jun 2013
  • Last Update: 26 Jun 2013
  • Format: pdf


To present a cost-benefit analysis of the case for changing the UK’s eyesight test for driving and of a campaign to encourage drivers to voluntarily have their eyes tested every two years.


Literature review and cost-benefit analysis.

Key Findings:

  • The RSA is seeking a change in UK law requiring everyone applying for a motorcycle or car licence to have had an eyesight test in the previous two years demonstrating that their vision meets the legal standard.

  • It also recommends drivers voluntarily have their eyesight tested more regularly to ensure their vision is up to standard.

  • A meta-analysis conducted for the EC IMMORTAL programme reported significant associations with static visual acuity, useful field of view, failing a licence screening test, glare sensitivity and monocular vision.

  • Driver eyesight surveys are scarce but generally report around 1 - 3% of drivers (all ages) having VA < 0.5, the EC minimum legal level for driving.

  • The IMMORTAL programme estimated the benefits of the EC Directive visual standard in the Czech Republic, Netherlands, Norway and Spain, and reported negative benefits overall. These arose mostly from the costs of withdrawing driving licences from drivers whose eyesight could not be corrected.

  • In Great Britain the number of accidents due to poor vision cannot be calculated from the DFT data, since ‘uncorrected, defective eyesight’ is likely to be under-reported and misinterpreted.

  • However, this study estimated that 2,048 drivers in the UK were involved in road accidents due to poor vision, causing an estimated 2,874 casualties, (assuming 2.4% of drivers have poor vision) and the relative risk of accident involvement from poor vision is 1.15.

  • The total cost of UK road accidents due to poor driver vision is estimated to be £32.9 million in 2012.

  • The proposed policy change is expected to generate almost 500,000 eyesight tests per year. The additional cost of these tests and required spectacles is estimated to be £13.2 million, including £8.0 million to the UK Government.

  • From year two onwards the cost savings from fewer road accidents will outweigh these costs, with a maximum net benefit of £14.4 million per year reached by year 10. Net benefits to the UK Government would be realised after eight years.

  • It is estimated that a campaign leading to more eyesight tests in the next two years only (a one-off impact) would generate net annual benefits of £32.9 million, including £9.5 million to the UK Government.

  • The CBAs required a number of assumptions and the net impact of the assumptions is ambiguous. They do not consider the additional net benefits from early detection of cataracts and glaucoma in older drivers.


Eyesight and Driving, Fitness to Drive