100% Biker 193

100% Biker 193
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‘SMIDSY’, the acronym for ‘Sorry mate, I didn’t see you’, is something with which all bikers are familiar. But what if it was you with the sight problem?

Kenny Roberts was once asked in an interview just what made him such a good rider. As a former Grand Prix World Champion and AMA Grand Slam winner, you might expect he would say it was down to his reactions or his fitness or his co-ordination. But the advantage that Roberts felt put him ahead of his contemporaries was exceptional eyesight.

Yet it’s even more important to have good vision when you’re riding on the road than it is for a track racer riding a familiar course without unexpected hazards or distractions. So, when did you last have an eye test?

Unfortunately, like most of your body, your eyes change with age, as many of you will be aware. For example, if you’re over forty, then you may well have reached for a pair of glasses to read these words. Presbyopia is the official name for this condition in which the eye’s ability to focus on near objects is progressively diminished, but you probably just know it as a bloody nuisance.

Considering that a driving licence puts you in control of a potentially lethal weapon, the eye sight qualification side is still remarkably simple. All you have to do is to be able to read a number plate at 20 metres away. Yet a survey by road safety charity, Brake, opticians Specsavers and RSA Insurance discovered that more than 1.5 million of UK drivers—that’s some 4%—had never even had their eyes tested, while 25% hadn’t had an eye test for more than two years. The International Glaucoma Association, in partnership with the Royal National Institute for the Blind has stated that you can lose up to 40% of your vision without noticing the difference, particularly if that degeneration is over a period of time and you automatically learn to compensate. The same survey also estimated that, if they had to take it again, up to five million people who hold current driving licences would fail. A percentage of those would be motorcyclists.

The present ‘number plate’ eyesight test is one of the least stringent in Europe. Only Cyprus, France, Sweden and the Netherlands use this rough and ready method. In every other European country, an examination performed by a doctor or an optometrist is required as part of the driving test. However, in the UK, the onus is on the individual to look after their eye health. An eye test is recommended every two years. Do it. It could save your licence (police can now conduct roadside eyesight checks—the number plate once again—and revoke your licence within hours); it could save your life; it could save someone else’s.