John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk


Over on Twitter, the CTC commented on a recent court case:

My initial reaction was outrage: surely that would count as a deliberate act, if you know you need glasses but drive without them? However, it seems to be a bit more complicated than that. I don't know which newspaper that snippet came from (they didn't cite a source), but I've found some articles online:

* Short-sighted motorist who mowed down and killed dog-walker given 140 hours community service (The Telegraph)
* Driver who hit and killed journalist Laurence Gunn on Hampstead zebra crossing is sentenced to 140 hours of community work (Camden New Journal)
* Outrage as short-sighted driver who knocked down and killed pedestrian is freed (Daily Express)

The articles in The Telegraph and the Daily Express both include this quote from the judge:
"I suggest we will never know why you did not see the victim. It would have been desirable and prudent to wear specs. But there is nothing unlawful about that."

Both articles also say that the driver could only read a licence plate from 7 feet away (~= 2.1 metres), whereas the Government's driving eyesight rules say that you need to be able to read it from 20 metres away. Those rules also state:
"You must wear glasses or contact lenses every time you drive if you need them to meet the 'standards of vision for driving'."

The Camden New Journal article says:
"Mr Rashid, who is short-sighted, had been granted a licence on condition that he wore glasses but later passed sight tests without them."

Based on that, I assume that the driver's vision deteriorated after he'd passed his sight test, so he didn't realise that he needed to wear glasses to drive. In this case, that then led to tragic results. I'm not going to second-guess the judge in this case, but I think it's worth considering whether the current system needs to be changed.

At present, you have to pass an eyesight test as part of your driving test, but then that's it, and you never have to do that eyesight test again unless you lose your licence and have to repeat your driving test. Some organisations may insist on extra tests for their professional drivers, but there's no obligation for private drivers. Suppose that you want to exchange your paper driving licence for a photocard licence or renew your driving licence if you're 70 or over. You have to meet the minimum eyesight requirement, but you can also do both of those actions online, i.e. nobody will actually check whether your eyesight is good enough. You can also renew your driving licence online if you're under 70, and that page doesn't even mention the eyesight requirement at all.

I think it would make sense to insist on eye tests for drivers at least once every 10 years, i.e. people should have to produce evidence of that test when they renew their licence. This could work in a similar way to VED: your car needs an MOT certificate before you can get a new tax disk, and that's all cross-referenced online. In this case, maybe the police could run an event once a month where anyone could turn up with their (photocard) licence and do an eye test; the police could then update the central database for that driving licence number to show that you've passed. This would be similar to the existing cycle marking events where you can turn up with your bike and the police will mark it and enter it in their database.

I've also been thinking about theory tests. When I passed my driving test in 1994, there wasn't a separate theory test; the examiner would just ask a few questions about the Highway Code. By the time I took my motorbike test (in 2001) I had to do a theory test as well. So, I'm sure there are a lot of drivers on the road who've never had to take a theory test at all. Similarly, even if people have done that test, the Highway Code gets updated every few years. There are also some road markings which only appear in certain parts of the country, e.g. I see lots of single/double red lines in London but there aren't any in rural areas, so people who don't normally drive in London might not know what they mean.

Personally, I buy a new copy of the Highway Code each time it's updated. I also follow @HighwayCodeGB on Twitter, which is a useful way to get a "drip feed" reminder about rules that I might have forgotten. However, as with the eyesight tests, I think that retaking the theory test should be a prerequisite for renewing the driving licence. There are already test centres set up to provide this test, and I'm sure that more centres would open if there was demand for them (i.e. if the existing centres don't have enough capacity for all the extra tests).

If people aren't using their licence, they might prefer to let it lapse rather than deal with the time/expense of getting these extra tests, and I don't have a problem with that. However, I think that they should then need to resit the (practical) driving test as well as doing the eyesight/theory tests in order to resume the licence later. For that matter, maybe all drivers should have to repeat the practical test every 10 years as well.

So, who's with me on this?

Poll #1951462 Repeating tests

Should drivers have to repeat any tests on a regular basis?


If so, which tests?

Practical test
Theory test
Eyesight test

And how often (in years)?

Mean: 8.33 Median: 10 Std. Dev 2.36
Tags: driving, poll

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