Thames Valley, Hampshire and West Midlands police have been running an eyesight campaign during September with every motorist stopped in any of the three force areas liable to have their sight tested at the side of the road.
The law states that motorists must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres and anyone tested who was unable to do this risked having their driving licence revoked immediately. Police officers can implement powers to request an urgent cancellation of their licence by the DVLA if they believe the safety of other road users is at risk if the motorist continues to drive.
The activity is part of a wider campaign to encourage the public and Government to take driver vision seriously. An estimated 1.5m UK licence holders have never had an eye test and crashes involving a driver with defective eyesight are thought to cause 2,900 casualties every year on the UK’s roads. However, the UK’s driver vision testing remains inadequate and antiquated, requiring only a 20m number plate check when taking your driving test and nothing else for the rest of your driving life – one of only five EU countries to have such low standards.
The campaign was backed by two major road safety organisations plus one of the largest opticians in the UK.
IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s biggest independent road safety charity, has welcomed this new trial and warns drivers that if it is a success they can expect additional basic safety checks from traffic police in the future.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “They should be, as a matter of course, examining the following five key items: driving licence, MOT, vehicle insurance, drink/drugs and now eyesight.
“Adding a vision test to the standard list of roadside checks will be a sharp warning to those drivers who choose not to wear their glasses, or not get their eyesight checked, that the enforcement is now out there to back up the regulations. Our message is simple – don’t risk it!”
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.
Commenting on the launch of the campaign, 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. Only by introducing rigorous and professional eye tests can we fully tackle the problem of unsafe drivers on our roads.”
“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.”
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.”
“Since 2013, the Police have a new procedure – Cassie’s Law – to fast track notification to the DVLA should they find someone who cannot read a number plate at 20m in daylight conditions. Offending motorists will within an hour have their licence revoked and face prosecution. During September, we will be carrying out 20m number plate checks at every opportunity and those who fail will have their licences revoked. I hope we do not find anyone and everyone makes sure they are safe to read the road ahead.”
- You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.
- You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye.
- You must also have an adequate field of vision – your optician can tell you about this and do a test.
The test must be conducted in good daylight with glasses or corrective lenses (if required), however if the individual was not wearing glasses or lenses at the time of the incident (even if they are normally needed) then the test should be carried out without the glasses or corrective lenses.