By Jacqui Mayhew

Corrective contact lenses  based on orthokeratology - or ortho-k for short - are worn only while sleeping to treat short-sightedness yet could prove an important option for many drivers who are not able to meet the new EU vision standards. The latter require an ability to read halfway down an optician's sight test chart compared with the long-established UK standard from the 1930s which only required drivers to read a number plate from 20 metres. Given the evidence of a recent survey reported in the British Journal of Opthalmology, as many as 15 per cent of current drivers would fail the new EU standard.

Surprisingly, there is currently no compulsory way of ensuring appropriate vision standards are met by all drivers. Keziah Latham, senior lecturer in vision and hearing sciences at Anglia Ruskin University, tested 120 people with borderline vision and found that 15 per cent could pass the number plate test but were unable to read halfway down the standard optician's sight test chart. Experts believe that the majority of ‘illegal' drivers are over 50 who avoid eye tests because they are afraid to be told their eyesight has deteriorated with age and do not want to wear glasses. However, ortho-k corrective contact lenses  can provide older drivers with perfect vision and no requirement to wear glasses.

Britain is rare amongst EU countries in not needing drivers to undergo an eye test before they can drive. Based on her survey Ms Latham stated: "People who have been driving quite legally because they can read a number plate at 20 metres are officially illegal to drive." The insurance industry and the various motoring organisations are at one with the objective of ensuring that drivers whose poor vision makes them unsafe on our roads should be compelled to undergo full sight tests. With ortho-k corrective contact lenses , such drivers can deal with their short-sightedness through a treatment that only requires them to wear small contact lenses overnight and nothing during the day.

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