Eyesight test change sparks safety concerns

14.12 | 7 February 2011 | | 1 comment

New EU proposals which would make the eyesight element of the driving test easier have given rise to road safety concerns (Telegraph).

Ministers are looking to cut the minimum distance from which a motorist has to be able to read a number plate, following a change in EU law aimed at standardising the rules across Europe.

Under the new requirements the reading distance would fall from 65 feet and seven inches (20 metres) to 57 feet and 5 inches (17.5 metres). This is despite the great variation in the size of characters on number plates across Europe.

According to the Telegraph report, the government is ready to adopt the EU distance after a series of laboratory safety tests.

Rob Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), said: "The eyesight test is a pretty reliable indicator that people can see what is in the road ahead of them. I would be cautious about going ahead with this.

"I cannot think of any benefits at all. I can appreciate that it may not be a great difference but as the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”

Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, added: "Even with the shorter distance, anyone who is short-sighted will still have to go to the opticians.

“We started with bigger number plates than we have now, which is why the distance has shrunk. But in reality the real test is being able to see a motorcyclist in twilight, rather than merely being able to read the number plate.”

Mike Penning, the road safety minister, said: “We must make sure that only those who are safe to drive are allowed on our roads, while at the same time avoiding placing unnecessary restrictions on people’s independence.”

Click here to read the full Telegraph report.


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    On the contrary, asking someone to read a numberplate from across a car park is hardly a good indication as to the state of their eye sight and I am surprised Mr Gifford thinks it is. How can it be right that in this day and age test candidates and those renewing their licenses are not subjected to a proper eye exam? Peripheral vision and the ability to see in low light also need to be taken into consideration.

    Dave, Leeds
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