Roadside sight tests for drivers03 Sep 2018

Licences could be revoked immediately

Police in the Thames Valley, Hampshire and the West Midlands are targeting drivers with poor eyesight throughout September.

As part of a pilot scheme – run in conjunction with the road safety charity Brake – any motorist stopped by traffic officers during this period will be required to read a vehicle number plate at 20 metres, the same challenge given to learners during their practical driving tests.

If a motorist fails the test police have the powers to immediately revoke that person’s licence. The data collected will be used to get a better understanding of how many people are still driving even when poor eyesight means they shouldn’t.

While in 2016, uncorrected or defective vision was recorded as a contributory factor in just seven of the 1,445 fatal accidents for which causes were given, police believe the true number is probably far higher.

Sergeant Rob Heard, representing the police forces taking part in the campaign, said:

“Since 2013, the Police have a new procedure – Cassie’s Law – to fast track notification to the DVLA should they find someone who cannot read a number plate at 20 metre in daylight conditions. Offending motorists will within an hour have their licence revoked and face prosecution. During September, we will be carrying out 20 metre number plate checks at every opportunity and those who fail will have their licences revoked. I hope we do not find anyone and everyone makes sure they are safe to read the road ahead.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“Public opinion is crystal clear. Previous research for us has shown that four out of five drivers would be willing to pay for a compulsory eye test to coincide with the renewal of their driving licence.

“But like a car MOT, an eye test can only ever be a snapshot of wellbeing at a moment in time. Just as motorists should be routinely monitoring the road worthiness of their vehicles, so they should also be regularly checking their own fitness to drive.

“The financial cost of checking your eyes is minimal, and a fraction of the overall cost of running a car. Yet the human cost of driving with failing eye sight and having an accident can be immeasurable. Drivers mustn’t just keep their eyes on the road, they must ensure they can see what’s ahead.”

Brake is calling for a mandatory eye test to accompany the ten-yearly renewal of photo card driving licences.

At the moment it is up to drivers to inform the DVLA of any medical condition – including problems with eyesight – which puts them, and other road users, at risk when they drive.

Members of the College of Optometrists are told that if their patients have been told that they are unfit to drive but do not inform the DVLA, then they are allowed to break patient confidentiality if it is in the public interest. There is similar guidance for doctors.

Previous research for the RAC Foundation showed that almost four out of five motorists support the introduction of compulsory eye tests for drivers every decade.



Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

[email protected] | 020 7747 3445 | 07711 776448 | 020 7389 0601 (ISDN)

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist.

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