Legal Expert Highlights Dangers Of Driving With Failing Eyesight

A legal expert has warned motorists of the serious repercussions of continuing to drive with failing eyesight after a partially sighted driver was jailed for seven years for killing a motorcyclist.

The case of Nigel Sweeting, who killed motorcyclist David Evans in a hit-and-run incident on Christmas Day 2015, has sparked calls for a change in the law so that all medical professionals, not just doctors, face disciplinary action if they fail to raise concerns.

A court was told that Sweeting’s optician had encouraged him to see a GP about his eyesight problems, but the defendant said “he couldn’t be bothered”.

The case follows the death of three-year-old Poppy-Arabella Clark last year, who was killed by a 73-year-old motorist who had ignored opticians’ warnings not to drive and was not wearing his glasses at the time.

Campaigners have been calling for a so-called “Poppy’s Law” law, which would impose a regulatory duty for all medical professionals to report dangerous drivers.

Paul Loughlin, of national law firm Stephensons, said: “Calls by campaigners for a legal duty for opticians to report drivers with poor eyesight should not obscure the fact that if you fail to meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving, then your licence will be revoked.

“There are standards that must be met to satisfy the DVLA. Aside from the basic ‘number plate test’, if there are concerns over a person’s visual field, ‘peripheral’ vision or central vision then, in the knowledge that the person has a driving licence, an opthalmologist or optometrist should report them. These sort of issues can arise from a standard eye test.

“Don’t forget, it is an offence to drive with uncorrected defective eyesight. A police officer can request you to submit to an eye-test. It is an offence to fail or refuse to comply which can result in three penalty points or a discretionary disqualification.

“Aside from that, you have an ongoing duty to report any medical condition to the DVLA if that affects your driving. If you do not tell the DVLA of such a condition you can be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000.”

The General Optical Council says that opticians should: ‘Promptly raise concerns about patients…if patient or public safety might be at risk and encourage others to do the same. Any breaches of standards can lead to disciplinary action.”

Meanwhile, new rules for GPs have recently strengthened the obligation to report patients they believed pose a danger on the road.