Eye, Eye, Officer: Police Focus on Drivers’ Defective Eyesight

Visualise this: you’re driving along, keeping an eye on other drivers, when some car makes a wildly unpredictable manoeuvre. You avoid a crash and maybe lean on your horn. ‘Did he even see me?’ It’s happened to everyone. But it’s especially worrying for those involved in courier work, if only because couriers spend so much more time on the road than your average driver.

Luckily, new proposals could help lessen this risk. Read on for more.

The Dangers of Poor Eyesight

It’s crazy when you think about it. When we take our driving tests, sometimes as young as 17, we’re asked to read a number plate at a distance. This is a reasonable enough test of our vision. But then that’s it. The test is never repeated. You could be driving 60 years later and there’s no requirement to take any follow up tests. This is a sobering thought to anyone involved in courier work – and to road users in general.

You might think that poor vision isn’t that much of a problem on the road. But while it may be comforting to assume most people would recognise when their eyesight is failing and get themselves tested, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Shockingly, the Association of Optometrists reported that 35% of optometrists recently saw patients who were still driving despite poor eyesight. And this is just a percentage of those who did get tested!

A 2012 survey found that almost 3,000 casualties were caused by poor vision in just twelve months, so none of this looks good. In fact, Joshua Harris of campaign group Brake referred to the lack of mandatory requirements quite simply as ‘madness’.


The attention to this issue was always staggeringly poor, but it appeared authorities tended to assume their glasses were half-full. Not anymore. A tragic, high-profile fatality caused by a driver in their 70s with poor eyesight has encouraged police to crack down.

So far, three police forces have committed to run roadside tests: Thames Valley, Hampshire and the West Midlands. Every driver stopped will be tested on their ability to read a number plate 20 metres in the distance and authorities plan to work with the DVLA to revoke the licences of those whose vision is bad enough to cause a danger to others.

Given how many eyebrows are raised over preventable accidents, it’s no surprise the police intend to sock it to anyone who doesn’t pass the test.

Your Responsibilities

You may be wondering how this affects you going about your business doing your courier work. If you’re not in the Thames Valley, Hampshire or the West Midlands, will anything change? There are no guarantees, of course, but Paul Loughlin, a lawyer specialising in motoring law, notes that even under existing laws ‘drivers could be committing a criminal offence if they drive with defective eyesight.’ And that any police officer in any part of the country can request someone to submit to an eye-test.

Loughlin stresses that drivers are personally liable. You can be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000 for failing to report to the DVLA any medical condition that affects your driving, for instance. And failing to meet their minimum standards could see you lose your licence.

This is, obviously, just about the worst thing that can happen to anyone doing courier work. Although a proper check-up with an optician is recommended, you can also check your sight the same way the police would. If you can’t read a licence plate at 20 metres, you have a legal duty to report it.

Groups such as Brake hope that police doing more tests will keep roads safer. And given some of the statistics above, it’s hard to see how keeping a closer eye on things isn’t a good thing. But delivery workers have as much responsibility as anyone else to make sure they’re safe on the road. So don’t get caught out: check your eyesight today.

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Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 5,400 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships.


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Author: Desiree Michels