Police to test drivers’ eyesight and confiscate licences if they fail

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Police to test drivers’ eyesight and confiscate licences if they fail
Research has suggested 35% of optometrists have seen patients who should not drive
Research has suggested 35% of optometrists have seen patients who should not drive

(SKY NEWS) – Police have launched a crackdown on drivers with poor vision to address road safety concerns.

Motorists pulled over by police officers during September will be tested to see if they can read a number plate from 20 metres (65 feet).

Drivers who fail to show that they can pass the test will have their driving licences immediately rescinded.

Thames Valley, Hampshire and the West Midlands forces will be running the crackdown, supported by the road safety charity Brake and opticians firm Vision Express.

It comes after Surrey Police posted dash-cam footage of a near-miss on Sunday.

An 87-year-old driver from Woking failed an eye test after narrowly missing a police car when he turned the wrong way onto a main road.

The man voluntarily surrendered his driving licence after failing a roadside eye test.

Police said he could only read a number plate from just 7.3m (24ft) away. Drivers are legally required to be able to read a registration plate from a distance of 20.5m (around 67ft).

Sergeant Rob Heard said: “Not being able to see a hazard or react to a situation quickly enough can have catastrophic consequences.”

Road police officers will be carrying out the checks on drivers’ vision “at every opportunity”, said Sgt Heard.

Police are currently able to request an urgent license revocation through the DVLA if they believe it is unsafe for a driver to remain on the road.

The power, known as Cassie’s Law, was introduced in 2013 when a 16-year-old girl called Cassie McCord was killed after being struck by an 87-year-old driver in Colchester, Essex.

As part of the investigation into Cassie’s death, it emerged that the driver had failed a police eyesight test days earlier but was able to continue driving due to a legal loophole.

The police forces’ partners are calling for a recent eye test to be a requirement when licenses are renewed every 10 years.

The law currently only requires an eye test during the practical drivers’ test, when learners must read a plate from 20 metres.

Joshua Harris, the director of campaigns for Brake, said: “It is frankly madness that there is no mandatory requirement on drivers to have an eye test throughout the course of their driving life.

“Only by introducing rigorous and professional eye tests can we fully tackle the problem of unsafe drivers on our roads.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The human cost of driving with failing eyesight and having an accident can be immeasurable.

“Drivers mustn’t just keep their eyes on the road, they must ensure they can see what’s ahead.”

The Association of Optometrists published research last year which found that more than a third (35%) of optometrists saw patients in the previous month who continued to drive despite being told their vision was below the legal standard.

A 2012 study by insurance firm RSA estimated that poor vision caused 2,874 casualties in a year.

Jonathan Lawson, Vision Express’ chief executive, 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.”

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