If you’re driving and you can’t read a number plate 20 metres ahead of you and the police stop you, there’s a chance you could lose your license. New measures to cut down on drivers with poor eyesight have been announced with the police now testing people at the roadside to stop dangerous or reckless driving.
On the spot test
So far, three forces have announced they are trying a new system where they check driver’s eyesight if they are stopped. Thames Valley, Hampshire and West Midlands police forces will ask drivers if they can read a number plate 20 metres away from the roadside. Drivers who cannot manage this could see their license revoked immediately.
The trial will take place over the course of September with the aim of ensuring everyone driving on the UK’s roads has the right level of vision. Police plan to stop drivers and put them through the test at strategic points across the road networks of the three areas. The data collected will be used to get a more complete picture of the poor driver eyesight issue in the UK, something that is currently underreported in government statistics.
Take vision seriously
According to the government and the police forces involved, the idea is to get drivers to take their eyesight seriously. Sergeant Rob Heard, speaking on behalf of the forces involves, said that everyone needs good vision to drive because not being able to see a hazard or react to a situation quickly enough can have catastrophic consequences.
Currently, the legal limit is being able to read a number plate at 20 metres, which is around five car lengths away. This is a minimum requirement, and there is talk that a regular eyesight test with an optician may also become compulsory for people wanting to drive.
The move is part of the Cassie’s Law initiative that means driver licenses can be removed within hours if someone is found to be posing a threat to other road users. The changes took place in 2013 following a campaign by Jackie McCord, whose daughter Cassie was killed by an elderly motorist who had been told not to drive by the police.
Before the law, the police had to write or fax a request to have a license removed, but under Cassie’s Law, they could telephone or send an email to speed up the process. This means police can even email straight from their vehicles to a dedicated email address at the DVLA and the license will be immediately revoked. Police are then able to prevent the person from driving any further.
The new trial could also see drivers facing prosecution if they don’t manage to comply with the test. There is an estimated 1.5 million license holder on the roads who have never had an eye test and crashes involving drivers that are suffering with poor eyesight are thought to cause over 2,900 causalities a year.
Campaigners also say that the UK’s testing system is antiquated and not fit for purpose. Once motorists pass their test with good eyesight, there is nothing further that requires them to be checked during the course of their life.
Vision Express and Brake are two campaigners who want the government to tighten up driver vision laws and ensure that testing is compulsory before taking a test but also each time a photocard license is renewed.
Brake spokesperson Joshua Harris said that it ‘stands to reason’ that good eyesight is a fundament of driving. But the current system doesn’t do enough to protect people from drivers whose eyesight deteriorates. And that it is ‘madness’ that there is no requirement for drivers’ vision to be tested during the years of them driving.
Vision Express added that their recent survey showed 75% of people think a recent eye test should be mandatory when someone is renewing their driving license.
What happens if you lose your license?
What about for drivers who fail the test, often unaware that they were breaking the rules or how poor their eyesight was? The DVLA can revoke your license for a number of medical reasons and then you would have to apply for a new one including paying as if the licence was brand new. They will also give you a disqualification period during which you cannot reapply.
Once this is finished, you can reapply eight weeks before the end of the period. You may need to provide evidence that you are fit and well to drive and the DVLA will advise about this. After this, they then inform you if you are being granted a new license, but can refuse again.
Seeing the problem
For many drivers, they just aren’t aware that their vision isn’t up to the standard. Corrective glasses or contact lenses usually make a massive difference in the difference between looking and seeing. With the new crackdown, drivers are having to seriously consider their eyesight and how well they can see when driving.
How’s your vision? Could you pass the 20 metres test if you were stopped? And do you think eye tests should be mandatory for drivers? Let us know below