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Police in the United Kingdom have launched a crackdown on road users who have defective vision, which will mean that any driver who is unable to pass a roadside eye test will have their driving licence taken away from them immediately.
This month all motorists who are stopped by police will be required to read a number plate from a distance of twenty metres, and if they prove to be unable to do so, they will have their licence revoked immediately. Test data will be used in order to improve understanding of the true extent of poor vision in British drivers.
Taking the initiative
Police forces in Thames Valley, the West Midlands and Hampshire are in charge of the new initiative, which is supported by opticians Vision Express as well as Brake, the road safety charity. Representing the various police forces who are participating in the campaign, Sgt Rob Heard noted that there can be catastrophic consequences when drivers are unable to spot a hazard or react quickly enough to a dangerous situation, and warned that eyesight checks will be being carried out at every available opportunity by police officers. Officers may request the urgent revocation of licences by the DVLA, if they are of the belief that a driver remaining on the road with poor eyesight is risking the safety of other road users.
The authority of the police in the United Kingdom to perform such tests and revoke licences was introduced five years ago after the death of 16 year old Cassie McCord from Colchester, Essex, who lost her life due to an elderly driver losing control of his vehicle. It was revealed that just a few days prior to the accident he had failed to pass a police eyesight test, but was able to keep driving due to a legal loophole.
Calls for mandatory eye tests for drivers
Vision Express and Brake have called for recent eye tests to be a requirement when drivers’ licences come up for their ten year renewals. Mandatory examination of vision under existing rules only takes place during the practical driving test, when new drivers need to read a number plate from a distance of twenty metres. After a driver’s licence has been issued it is then the responsibility of the driver to inform the DVLA if they begin experiencing eyesight problems.
Brake’s Joshua Harris says that it is crazy that “there is no mandatory requirement for drivers to have an eye test” during their entire driving life, and that the issue of unsafe drivers on British roads will only be fully dealt with when professional rigorous eye tests are introduced. In November 2017 the Association of Optometrists published research suggesting that over 35 percent of optometrists had seen patients in October 2017 who were told that their vision was under the legal standard, but continued to drive. Around 2874 casualties per year are the result of poor vision, according to a study that was conducted by insurance company RSA in 2012.