Hampshire, Thames Valley and West Midlands police are to start targeting drivers with poor eyesight this September. If you’re pulled over and can’t read a number plate from 20 metres (65 feet), your licence will be taken off you on the spot.
This crackdown is being backed by Vision Express and Brake (Road safety charity), it comes after an 87-year-old turned the wrong way onto a main road nearly hitting an oncoming police car. When the officers tested his eyesight, he could only read the full registration at 7.3 metres, around 1/3 of the recommended distance.
But many drivers have never performed this test since the day they gained their licence. It’s not something you’re regularly tested on, and as most people know your eyes deteriorate with age. This leads us to the question whether it’s just the elderly the police are targeting.
The above incident with the 87-year-old resulted in the driver voluntarily giving up his licence, but there’s no mention of him wearing glasses to correct his vision. If he wasn’t wearing glasses, he has been denied the opportunity to have an eye test, rectify the problem with distance reading, and keeping his licence.
Drivers 70 years and older have to renew their licence on that birthday, then every 3 years going forward. This helps to keep the number of unsafe drivers off our roads, so if the 87-year-old in question had been tested that regularly, he would have last passed two years ago. Meaning his vision would have also been assessed, it seems a little unfair to revoke a driver’s licence on the spot without the ability for them to take corrective action.
On the other hand, we all know how ageing can impair our judgement and reaction times, a 90-year-old driver isn’t going to have the same, catlike reflexes as a 30-year-old. Which is always a worry when elderlies are on the road.
Reflexes are one thing that can’t be changed, but your vision can. If an older driver is deemed to be safe on the roads, then surely he should have his licence revoked until he has had an eye test and glasses that can rectify distance vision. Upon then being given the 20 metre test again, their licence should be handed back.
The new clampdown on drivers with poor vision gives no explanation as to whether the above is possible, but it seems as though it’s mainly targeting elderly drivers.
Are forces merely going to pull over anyone who looks 70+ in a bid to cull older road users?
Elderly drivers are often hailed as safer, with insurance costs plummeting with age. Statistics will tell you most accidents are through driving too fast and are caused by young drivers. Senior drivers tend to drive more carefully within their limits and avoid busier times of the day to travel.
Insurance firm RSA ran a study in 2012 which estimated that around 2,874 casualties that year were caused by poor vision. But vision issues can affect anyone at any age, nearly three-quarters or 74% of people in the UK wear glasses or contact lenses.
Worryingly 1 in 8 of the 46% who actually need contact lenses or glasses to drive admit to not wearing them.
It’s also possible to lose up to 40% of your eyesight before even realising, your mind compensates, and as the degeneration happens you gradually become used to it.
Road safety charity Brake is calling for an eye test to be given every 10 years once your licence is renewed. It’s something that could potentially be carried out at test centres to provide a quick box tick, or possibly a full eye test will need to be paid for privately by each driver, with the results being logged on a central system much like an MOT is.
It makes no sense that drivers can keep their licences yet never have an eye test, as part of your overall health you should have your lookers tested every few years, especially if you’re on the roads. Without a law mandating test accidents and deaths will still happen on our streets, and it’s not just the elderly causing them.
Eyesight loss can occur at any age, something police forces currently seem to be forgetting.