Good eyesight is essential if you are to drive safely on our roads – it’s a bit of a no-brainer, right? Wrong! It is estimated that road crashes involving a driver with poor vision were estimated to cause 2,900 casualties (RSA Insurance Group plc, overview available on the Road Safety Observatory, 2012).
It was one such accident in the UK that Poppy-Arabella Clarke lost her life in July 2016. The 3-year-old girl was knocked down by a pensioner whilst on her way to nursery. He was completely oblivious to what he had done until someone stopped him.
Sadly, this tragic accident could have been prevented. The police investigation revealed that the pensioner was not wearing glasses. He had also been informed that his eyesight was below the legal standard for driving weeks before the accident. Despite understanding clearly what he was told, he chose to ignore the advice of two separate Optometrists. The pensioner was jailed at the end of last month, for four years, after being charged with causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Poppy Arabella’s parents are now calling for a change in law in the UK “requiring medical professionals to report people who are unfit to drive to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency” (AOP, 2017), so their licence can be revoked.
In 2011, 16-year-old Cassie McCord died from fatal head injuries after being struck by a car. It was discovered the driver, an 87 year old pensioner had failed a police eyesight test just days before the accident, and was advised by police not to drive. However, a legal loophole enabled him to continue to drive and police had no power to immediately revoke his licence.
Following her daughter’s death, Jackie Rason, fought for a change in the law. Subsequently Cassie’s law was introduced which empowers the DVLA to revoke licences much quicker. Also when the police “believe that the safety of other road users would be put at risk if a driver with insufficient eye sight remains on the road, they can ask for the licence to be urgently revoked” (McCormick, 2015). If a banned driver then continues to drive, they are committing a crime, which may lead to them being arrested or having their vehicle seized. Since the introduction of the new powers in 2013, 609 licences have been revoked (McCormick, 2015).
Optometrist Aisling Hennessey at McBride and McCreesh Opticians is currently “unaware of any prosecutions made within Ireland with similar circumstances”. However, she goes on to highlight a survey documented by the Irish Health website which reveals “one in three motorists who require spectacle correction, regularly drive without their prescribed spectacles or contact lenses. One in five, surprisingly, admitted to an accident caused by or involved poor sight. “
Aisling would “like to see sight testing as a requirement for every application for a licence renewal. However, it is each individual’s responsibility to themselves and to other road users to ensure they are fit to be behind the wheel of a car.”
Key Points to Remember
- You are personally responsible for ensuring that your vision meets the specified minimum requirements every time you get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Have your eyes tested regularly, at least every two years, unless advised otherwise by your Optometrist. To book an appointment call us on 0749721727 or click here .
- It is a criminal offence to drive with eyesight below the legal standard and you risk invalidating your insurance.
- If advised by your Optometrist to wear spectacles or contact lenses for driving you should wear them at all times when driving.
- You must notify the National Drivers Licence Service (NDLS) of any medical condition, which may affect your ability to drive safely.
Visit McBride and McCreesh Opticians, Donegal Town, for further information on vision and driving, including the best type of lenses, frames and sunglasses available to suit your needs. Call us on 0749721727.