Many motorists have crap eyesight…so insurance company gifts hi-vis belts to cyclists

No doubt insurance provider RSA wants to do the right thing but is equipping cyclists with free hi-vis kit the best thing to do, or should the company concentrate on lobbying for motorists to have compulsory eye tests every few years? Or, forget the belts, gift eye tests to motorists instead.

Check out the last para in this email offer sent out to cycle advocacy groups yesterday:

From: Deborah Lewis
Date: 20 November 2012 15:32:44 GMT
Subject: Road Safety Week – High Visibility Cycling Belts

Good afternoon,

The week of 19th November – 25th November marks Road Safety Week in the UK and RSA and More Th>n are promoting the importance of road safety through a number of initiatives.

One of these activities is distributing high visibility cycling belts both across our regional offices, as well as to cycling clubs nationwide.

We would like to send you some free high-visibility belts that can be distributed to your club members that can help with them being seen on the road at night and during times of low visibility.

If you are interested in receiving some belts, please could you provide me with the quantity required, as well as an address to send them too.

RSA is promoting road safety awareness as part of its Fit to Drive campaign that highlights the dangers of driving with poor eyesight and encourages drivers to look after the health of their eyes with regular eye tests.

Kind regards,

On the surface this may seem like a kind and generous offer from RSA: cyclists, be seen. But the onus shouldn’t have to be on cyclists, the key thing is for motorists to have perfect vision. If motorists don’t have perfect vision what the heck are they doing on public highways operating potentially lethal machinery?

This isn’t an issue for cyclists alone. Pedestrians and, of course, other motorists should also be worried there are folks out there who can’t adequately see through their windscreens. If cyclists are given free hi-vis belts shouldn’t pedestrians get the same? And how about big hi-vis wraparound belts for cars?

It’s commendable that RSA has a Fit to Drive campaign – see press release below – but the cash spent on the hi-vis belts may have been better spent on even more lobbying to get vision-impaired drivers off the roads. And it’s a moot point whether hi-vis items have any safety benefits: plenty of cyclists, even those garbed in neon, get hit by motorists. [Hi-vis ankle straps – which bob up and down when pedalling – would have been a better idea than Sam Brown belts].

Another thing that RSA could advocate for would be slower speeds. If motorists – even those with 20/20 vision – were forced to drive below the speed limit (fantasy island stuff, I know) that would be of huge and lasting benefit to society.


A new report commissioned by leading global insurer, RSA, has found that road crashes caused by poor driver vision cost the UK an estimated £33 million a year and result in nearly 2,900 casualties, with official tests to identify and rectify the problem in need of urgent reform.

The report, commissioned for RSA’s Fit to Drive campaign and launched at a Parliamentary event in Westminster during the week, aims to raise awareness of the dangers of driving with poor vision and is calling for a change in UK law requiring:

the current number plate test to be scrapped, as this does not provide an accurate assessment of a drivers’ vision;

all learner drivers to have their vision tested by a qualified professional prior to applying for a provisional driving licence; and,

eye tests to be mandatory every ten years, linked to driving licence renewal; with drivers encouraged to voluntarily have their eyes tested every two years (in line with NHS recommendations).

RSA’s proposed changes to eyesight testing are estimated to generate net savings to the UK economy after the first year of introduction and increase to £14.4 million by year 10.

Adrian Brown, RSA UK & Western Europe CEO, said: “The report’s figures speak for themselves. If we simply make an eye test mandatory when getting your first driving licence and when renewing every 10-years we will save lives and reduce the strain on public finances.

“Wider understanding among politicians, health professionals, the police and insurers about the serious impact of poor eyesight on road safety is crucial and our Westminster roundtable event marks the start of what I hope will be a sustained commitment to working together to improve safety on our roads.”

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, the road safety charity, said: “This report gives an indication of how many violent and devastating casualties on our roads could be prevented through a simple eye examination. Being able to see clearly what’s in front and around you is fundamental to safe, responsible driving.

“That’s why we urge drivers to have an eye test at least every two years, even if you think your sight is fine. We also hope to see common sense winning through and the Government tightening up the rules on driver eyesight. To make our roads safer and ensure everyone is fit to drive we need a scientific eyesight test at the start of your driving career and compulsory re-tests at least every 10 years thereafter.”

At the Westminster event several MPs signed RSA’s Fit to Drive pledge, which outlines their support for the issue as well as urges others in the Government to do the same.

The pledge reads: “I have signed RSA’s Fit to Drive pledge to show my support for this important campaign, and will be urging my colleagues in Parliament to do the same.”