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One in 20 drivers failing eyesight test – WMP backs national road safety push 

Around one in every 20 drivers being pulled over by West Midlands Police as part of road safety initiatives are failing basic eyesight tests, latest figures show.

Between March 1 and August 20 the force checked the vision of 81 motorists pulled over during deployments of Operation Close Pass – the force’s campaign to protect cyclists from dangerous overtakes.

All were required to read a number plate from 20 metres, just over 60 feet, but four of the 81 failed and had their licence revoked on the spot after being deemed a potential risk to other road users.

BRAKE campaign poster

West Midlands Police is one of three constabularies – alongside Hampshire and Thames Valley – now supporting a national driver vision campaign being run by road safety charity BRAKE throughout September.

It means officers will test every motorist they stop in a bid to clamp down on drivers with defective eyesight.

West Midlands Police Superintendent Dave Twyford, head of the Central Motorway Police Group, said: “It’s worrying that around five per cent of drivers we’ve pulled over recently during Close Pass have failed the basic eyesight requirements.

“Not being able to see a hazard or react to a situation quickly enough can have catastrophic consequences and potentially cost lives.”

Under current rules, the only mandatory examination of a driver's vision takes place during the driving test; after a person has obtained a licence it is up to them to inform the DVLA if they develop vision problems.

WMP checks driver eyesight as part of the Op Close Pass scheme
WMP checks driver eyesight as part of the Op Close Pass scheme

However, police can request an urgent revocation of a licence through the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if they believe the safety of other road users will be put at risk if a driver remains on the road.

The power to revoke licences was introduced in 2013 under Cassie's Law, named after 16-year-old Cassie McCord who died when an 87-year-old man lost control of his vehicle in Colchester, Essex.

It later emerged he had failed a police eyesight test days earlier, but a legal loophole meant he was allowed to continue driving.

PC Mark Hodson added: “We have been routinely testing the eyesight of drivers for more than two years as part of Op Close Pass; drivers sometimes tell us ‘I didn’t see the cyclist’ so we give them a roadside vision check. 

“As part of the BRAKE campaign our officers will be carrying out vision checks on all drivers who are pulled over on suspicion of committing a traffic offence or been involved in a collision. 

“And I would urge all drivers who have concerns over their vision to book an eye test at the earliest opportunity…it could save a life.”

Anyone who has their licence revoked can apply and pay for a new one after sitting out a disqualification period; evidence must be provided to the DVLA on reapplication showing that the driver's vision meets the required standard.