Source: Intelligent Instructor
New calls for regular eyesight testing for drivers
Another fatal casualty of poor eyesight behind the wheel
82-year-old driver has been jailed for six months after killing a cyclist.
Peter Gardner of Whitchurch, Hampshire pleaded guilty.
He collided with cyclist Jim Tassell from behind. The cyclist was knocked off his bike causing fatal injuries – he died in hospital five days later.
A police report into the incident identified the cause of the crash as Gardner’s defective eyesight.
A quarter of the required vision
Salisbury Crown Court heard how Gardner could read a number plate from no more than three metres away. This is far less than the 20m required to pass a driving test.
“Conditions were fine, the sun was out … there was nothing significantly interfering with your vision other than the fact your eyesight was deteriorating,” said judge Andrew Barnett in passing sentence.
“You drove, not at a great speed, to collide with devastating effect,” said the judge. “An eyesight test showed you could only read a number plate at three metres as opposed to [the regulation] 20 metres. That is quite a significant impairment.”
Ignoring the facts
In August 2018, the retired rail worker was told by an optician that he might be developing cataracts. He was told to return in 12 months’ time. Gardner failed to arrange a follow-up appointment.
“I am told that you hadn’t noticed any deterioration of your eyesight,” said the judge.
“I find it hard to believe you had not realised as you had continued to drive to the period of the collision. It must have been obvious to you that you were not seeing things as you should.
“It seems to me that your recklessness and foolishness are quite obvious”.
Time for change
In a victim impact statement by Tassell’s daughter Emma highlighted the devastation of such irresponsibility. “It is abundantly clear that you should not have been behind the wheel of a car.” She added that Gardner was “selfish and incompetent” for “choosing to drive with terrible eyesight”.
The Tassell family issued a statement calling on elderly drivers “with poor eyesight to ensure they are medically fit to drive”.
At present, drivers are not subject to mandatory eyesight tests post driving-test.
Licences must be renewed every three years once the holder reaches 70. Motorists are required to inform the DVLA if their health deteriorates and could affect their driving. Failing to do so can lead to a fine of up to £1,000 and prosecution in event of a crash. Drivers can have their licences immediately revoked if they fail a police roadside eye test.
Opticians see danger
The relative laxity of the current system is a cause of concern for many, opticians included.
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) said Britain’s driving standards are too weak.
In an AOP survey, 60% of optometrists had seen patients whose vision falls below the legal standard but continued to drive.
“We’re calling for a change in the law,” says the Association. They are calling for sight tests “when they renew their driving licence every ten years”.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation says the organisation had never supported mandatory re-testing of drivers’ skills at “an arbitrary age, such as 70”. However, he says eyesight tests should be compulsory throughout motorists’ lives. Linking to licence renewal every ten years makes sense.