Paul Loughlin, Motoring Law Solicitor

A police crackdown on motorists with defective vision has highlighted the risks that couriers run if they take to the road despite having sub-standard eyesight.

Police in Thames Valley, Hampshire and West Midlands are to run roadside tests on every driver they stop to check that they can read a number plate 20m (65ft) in the distance.

They plan to ask the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to revoke the driver’s licence if they fear other people could be endangered by them staying on the road.

The move has prompted a legal expert to warn that all drivers – wherever they are based – risk serious legal repercussions if they drive with defective eyesight.

Recently published research by The Association of Optometrists showed that 35 per cent of optometrists had seen patients recently who were still driving despite their vision being below the legal standard. A 2012 survey estimated that poor vision caused 2,874 casualties in a year.

At the moment, the only mandatory examination of a driver’s vision is when they are taking their driving test.

A high-profile court case following the death of Poppy-Arabella Clark prompted calls last year for the law in this area to be tightened. The three-year-old 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.

Campaigning group Brake called it ‘madness’ that there was no mandatory requirement on drivers to have regular eye tests.

Joshua Harris, of Brake, said: “Only by introducing rigorous and professional eye tests can we fully tackle the problem of unsafe drivers on our roads.”

But Paul Loughlin, motoring law solicitor at national law firm Stephensons, said:The debate over changing the law should not obscure the fact that drivers could be committing a criminal offence if they drive with defective eyesight.

“And any police officer in any part of the country can request you to submit to an eye-test – not just officers in those three force areas. It is an offence to fail or refuse to comply which can result in three penalty points or a discretionary disqualification.

“In addition, you also have a duty to report any medical condition that affects your driving to the DVLA. If you do not, you could be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000.

“If you do fail to meet the DVLA’s minimum eyesight standards, you could lose your licence. In which case, you will have your driving licence revoked and your motor insurance will be invalid. 

“To get your licence back you will have to re-apply for a licence and pay the fee again. The DVLA will require evidence that your vision is up to standard and could insist on an additional eye test.”

Though a full eye test by an optician is the best way of checking drivers are safe to take to the road, you can quickly and easily make your own check.

Motorists must stand at least 20 metres from a vehicle and try to read the number plate. 

Any drivers who are unable to read a number plate – even partially – from the minimum distance have a legal duty to tell the DVLA.


[Source: Paul Loughlin, motoring law solicitor at national law firm Stephensons]

By Alison