Eyesight tests

20 May 2013

The DVLA has announced that it has made new arrangements with the Police which will lead to much quicker bans for motorists who fail eyesight tests. 

In 2011, 5,285 car and motorcycle licences and 685 lorry and bus drivers' licences were revoked on the ground of poor eyesight.  This was a 39% increase from 2010. 

The eyesight test requires a driver to read a licence plate at a distance of 20 metres.  The Police have long since had power to administer roadside eyesight tests but anyone failing the test was not subject to an immediate ban.  Failing the test triggered an administrative review, which could, and usually did, lead to the licence being revoked sometime later.  The key feature of the new process is that Police Officers can now communicate with DVLA direct.  The result is that proceedings to revoke a driving licence can be started immediately after a driver fails an eyesight test, leading to the possibility of a driving licence being revoked while the driver waits at the roadside. 

The DVLA will operate the new service between 8am – 9pm on Mondays – Fridays (the Police are not permitted to administer eyesight tests outside of daylight hours).  Out of hours, the Police may arrest drivers then release them on bail, subject to a condition not to drive. 

Our view

This is a timely reminder to all drivers that they are responsible for their personal fitness to drive.  We do not agree with the commentaries we have seen which interpret this development as an extension of an employer's duty of care so as to require the provision of free eyesight tests to all those who might drive on company business.   Nevertheless, it certainly would be prudent for HR and/or fleet managers to issue reminders about eyesight tests from time to time.