Last September The Independent reported on the fact that the police will now be on the lookout for those people with defective eyesight who are still behind the wheel.  From that date, the police have had the right to ask any motorist to perform a roadside eyesight test, reading a number plate from twenty meters away. Fail and your license can be revoked on the spot.

Optician must report eyesight fails to the DVLA

Opticians are being told that they must report an eye test failure if their customer is a driver.  It is hoped that the data collected from this important source will help to understand the extent of the problem of bad eyesight amongst drivers. Initially the West Midlands, Thames Valley and Hampshire have been trialling the new scheme along with Vision Express and with support from Brake, the road safety charity.

Possible catastrophe

In the Independent article a sergeant from the police forces that are taking part in this campaign said that being unable to see or react to a hazard fast enough can be catastrophic on our roads and he went on to say that the police would be carrying out the eye tests whenever they could.  If a driver is found to have eyesight that puts them below the threshold of being safe on the roads then the police force can have the license revoked urgently by the DVLA He warned that officers will be carrying out eyesight checks “at every opportunity”.

Officers can request an urgent revocation of a license through the DVLA if they believe the safety of other road users will be put at risk if a driver remains on the road. This power was the result of the death of a 16 year old Cassie McCord who was killed by an 87 year old driver who lost control when he was driving.  When the case was looked into it turned out that he had failed an eye test administered by the police a couple of days earlier, but as the result of a legal loophole he was able to stay on the road.

Ten year tests

Vision Express and charity Brake have both called for an up to date eye test to be part of the renewal of a license every ten years. At the moment eyesight is only tested when a learner takes their practical driving test, at the beginning of their driving career, when they are given the number plate test. If someone has been given a license to drive, currently the onus is on them to tell the DVLA if there are any issues with their eyesight.  Joshua Harris is the director of campaigns for the road safety charity Brake. Speaking to the Independent he said: “It is frankly madness that there is no mandatory requirement on drivers to have an eye test throughout the course of their driving life. Only by introducing rigorous and professional eye tests can we fully tackle the problem of unsafe drivers on our roads.”


In advance of this new initiative The Association of Optometrists carried out research that was published in November 2017. That research found that a staggering thirty five per cent of optometrists had seen customers in the month previous to the survey who were continuing to drive even although they knew that their vision fell below the legal driving standard. An earlier 2012 study by the insurance firm RSA estimated 2,874 casualties a year were as a result of the poor eyesight of drivers. A spokesman for Vision Express said that the believed that what they were seeing was merely the top of the iceberg and said that they were sure that the public were as concerned as anyone about drivers on the road whose eyesight made them more likely to be involved in an accident.

The thought that there might be someone driving on the motorway at speed, or anywhere else for that matter, whose eyesight does not allow them to see the road or hazards properly, is a frightening one. We all appreciate the ongoing work that the police, opticians and road safety campaigners do to keep the roads safer for everyone.

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