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MP urges eyesight testing requirements for drivers

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The following item was carried on the webpage of ePolitix.com in advance of Meg’s Parliamentary debate later today.



Meg Munn MP calls on the government to rethink the rules on testing drivers’ eyesight in a bid to improve road safety.


It’s commonsense that drivers need good eyesight in order to drive safely, but the eyesight test that is undertaken to prove this is no longer adequate. This was brought home to me when a constituent got in touch following the tragic death of her niece caused by an 87 year old driver whose eyesight was seriously impaired.    


Constituent Joy Barnes’ niece, Fiona, was crossing the road, and as witnesses reported, was hit by a car which did not attempt to overtake or brake, it drove straight into her. She suffered a major head injury and broke her pelvis, spine and leg. She died in hospital six weeks later from multi-organ failure.


Police officers tested the driver’s eyesight and he could not read a car number plate from the required distance of 20.5 metres. He was later found to have cataracts in both eyes which had probably been there for 18 months.


Current driving test regulations have been in place since the 1930s and have remained substantially unchanged, despite increased numbers of vehicles on the roads, developments in road safety standards and clinical technology. Following their original test drivers of cars, small vans and motorbikes don’t have to take any form of eye test to keep their licence for the rest of their life. Only if they themselves report a serious vision impairment to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will a new eye test be needed. When reaching age 70 drivers are asked to confirm they have acceptable vision to renew their licence, but they are not required to prove this. 


The current eyesight test can no longer be seen as fit for purpose. Research shows that one in six drivers cannot see well enough to pass a very basic eyesight test. People who are reluctant to give up their driving licence cannot be relied upon to inform the authorities if they have eyesight problems.


Unlike with the tragic death of Fiona, it is not always possible to directly attribute poor eyesight to many road accidents. Eyesight is just one of the factors that may be involved; others may include the time of day, the weather, condition of the road and tiredness. However it is commonsense that poor vision will impair any driver’s performance, even taking in account all other conditions.


The government must recognise that good eyesight is a fundamental safety requirement and introduce a scientifically recognised method for testing eyesight which replaces the number-plate tests. Ensuring that drivers continue to have adequate vision requires eyesight testing to be mandatory at regular intervals. Drivers should have to provide proof that they have had their eyes tested by a medical professional, and that they meet minimum standards for visual acuity and visual field on a regular basis. This should happen at least every 10 years, coinciding with drivers renewing their photo card.


Poor driver eyesight kills, and each death is devastating to the people involved. The government should act on the professional advice, advice which commands support amongst drivers, and change the driving test to ensure that all drivers can see what lies ahead of them whilst on the road.


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