Police forces to test eyesight of all drivers stopped

09.49 | 3 September 2018 | | 12 comments

Three police forces are to revoke the licenses of drivers who fail pass the ‘20m number plate check’, as part of a month-long campaign.

Officers from Thames Valley, Hampshire and West Midlands will be testing the eyesight of every motorist they stop throughout September.

Drivers who fail to read a number plate from 20m (65ft) away will have their licences revoked immediately.

Data will be collected from each test and used to gain an improved understanding of the extent of poor driver eyesight, which Brake says is ‘vastly underreported in Government statistics’.

Sergeant Rob Heard, representing the police forces taking part in the campaign, said: “All of us require good vision to drive safely on our roads – not being able to see a hazard or react to a situation quickly enough can have catastrophic consequences.

“The legal limit is being able to read a number plate at 20m, around 5 car lengths, however this is a minimum requirement and a regular eyesight test with an optician is a must if we are going to be safe on the road.”

Brake, alongside Vision Express, is urging the Government to tighten up UK driver vision laws and make eyesight testing compulsory before the driving test and each time a driver renews their photocard license.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “It stands to reason that good eyesight is fundamental to safe driving, yet our current licensing system does not do enough to protect us from drivers with poor vision.

“It is frankly madness that there is no mandatory requirement on drivers to have an eye test throughout the course of their driving life, other than the disproven 20m number plate test when taking the driving test.

“Partnering with the police on this campaign will help us understand the extent of poor driver vision in the UK, an issue where good data is lacking. This is the first-step on the road to ensuring that good eyesight is a given on UK roads – the public shouldn’t expect anything less.”

Jonathan Lawson, chief executive of Vision Express, said: “We believe official government statistics on the impact of poor sight on road safety are the tip of the iceberg and we know the public feel the same as we do about tackling poor driver vision.

“A recent survey commissioned by Vision Express showed that 75% want a recent eye test to be mandatory when renewing a driving licence.”



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    The offence is Driving with Uncorrected Defective Eyesight – s.96(1) Road Traffic Act 1988 and the power to test comes from s.96(2). If a person fails to read a number plate at 20 metres (in good daylight) then the police will inform the DVLA electronically and DVLA will revoke the licence, not the police. A person will only be able to get their licence back when they can prove that their eyesight meets to required standard (usually done by the DVSA).

    Really everyone should have their eyes tested regularly and at the point of application and licence renewal evidence of a proper test, including peripheral vision etc, should be provided. Check out this website and sign the petition: http://www.drivingblind.org.uk/

    Neil Worth, Forest Row
    Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

    No mention of testing for tunnel vision or lack of peripheral vision I notice – just as important. A common fault of motorists is only looking straight ahead at the vehicle in front and not taking in the full panorama of what’s ahead and beyond.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (8) | Disagree (1)

    Surely this is not about whether you took a test with glasses or without. If you start to drive and your vision is impaired for whatever reason such that you cannot distinguish numbers on a plate 20m away then you should not be driving and your decision as to whether you are fit to drive is seriously flawed.

    Hence how could a police officer knowingly allow someone to continue to their journey after identifying that a driver had decided to go out on the roads with such impaired vision.

    Whether this amounts to an actual “revoking of license” is not quite clear in the article.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (12) | Disagree (4)

    Congratulations to the police forces taking this action. So why not all police forces?

    Peter Whitfield
    Agree (14) | Disagree (5)

    Looking at it simplistically, surely if people need to wear glasses to be be able to pass the eyesight test then they should be able to wear them for the test if they were wearing them when stopped by the police. If they were not wearing them when stopped then they should be tested as found.

    If they weren’t allowed to be tested in their glasses then would we not end up banning all glasses wearers? Am I missing something here?

    Nick Hughes, Preston
    Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

    > Suppose a driver is stopped wearing glasses or contact lenses? Do the police test them with or without?

    If you’re like me, and you wear glasses because you like the weight of something on your nose – and no endorsement exists on my driving licence, you could legally do the test with or without the glasses.

    If you’re like someone else I know, and they also like the weight of something on their nose and forgot to take said glasses off for the photograph (and thus has an incorrect mandatory eyesight correction endorsement on their licence) then I would reckon they would have to be wearing glasses/contacts, because otherwise without them (even if they don’t actually need them) it would be a void test as they would not be driving in accordance with their licence if they were to be driving.

    (and breathe)

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

    Quoting from the police in the article, “not being able to see a hazard or react to a situation quickly enough can have catastrophic consequences” could equally apply to speeding and other offences, as it could to poor eyesight, so the threat of instant revocation of one’s driving license might be a better deterrent than what we have now.

    I wondered whether those stopped and tested were for other offences, or whether their driving was seen to be below standard, or were they just random? Perhaps the latter group were ‘driving safely’ just like speeders do (don’t write in, I’m being cynical), yet technically not meeting the prescribed eyesight test?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

    Suppose a driver is stopped wearing glasses or contact lenses? Do the police test them with or without?
    Suppose a driver has a temporary eyesight issue (a cold or hayfever) that was not apparent at the start of their journey?
    Once the police have banned someone, can they redo their test?

    dave finney, Slough
    Agree (5) | Disagree (9)


    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (8)

    Have the police deliberately missed the ‘in good daylight’ bit out of their statement.

    I guess then those drivers that are stopped between the hours of dusk and dawn will be required to attend a police station to undergo the eyesight test.

    Or will the police be immediately revoking licences based on a new definition regarding eyesight to drive.
    Or are the Police intending to apply the Snellon Test under controlled conditions.

    They could be leaving themselves open to action if they do not get it right.

    I agree with the need for improved eyesight checks.

    Agree (7) | Disagree (3)

    It appears to be s.92 Road Traffic Act 1988, as amended.

    I don’t think “driving safely yet in excess of a posted speed limit” could be seen as a specified disability however, Hugh.

    David Weston
    Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

    I wasn’t aware that the police have the power to revoke a driver’s license on the spot. Can someone confirm that? If that is the case, why are they not using that power more often, instead of fines and proceedings through Courts? If drivers were ware of that possibility, it could have a dramatic effect on misbehaviour on the roads.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (13) | Disagree (0)

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