If you have an accident and it’s found that you’d failed to keep your car roadworthy, for example excessively worn tyres, and that was a contributory factor in the accident, your insurer will probably refuse to pay up. And the police may also show an interest too! Quite reasonable many of you will say. But what if it’s you that’s un-roadworthy?
How many driving accidents are accompanied by the comment “I didn’t see the other vehicle”? And what happens if the problem was your eyesight? Has it deteriorated to a dangerous extent?
Well all of us clearly know if we have an eyesight problem but there are opticians to help on every high street. Remember, if you need contact lenses or glasses for driving then you must wear them and if your eyesight deteriorates you should get a new prescription. It’s the legal responsibility of all drivers to ensure that they’re safe to drive.
Only last week I drew up alongside an elderly driver who was clearly having trouble reading the junction signs. He was leaning forward trying to read the signs indicating towards Leeds and rolling forward at 10 mph – all this at traffic lights that by this time had turned red – and he clearly hadn’t seen those! He was lucky that the cars coming across from the right saw him early. I’m not even sure he saw them either!
The law is quite straightforward – it states that any driving licence holder who cannot meet the minimum level of eyesight must not drive. They are also required to surrender their licence.
The eyesight test for drivers’ states that you must be able to read a number plate containing letters and figures 50 mm wide and 79mm high (that’s a legal number plate) from a distance of 20 meters. But you can use your driving glasses.
Having said that there’s no legal obligation for you to have regular eyesight tests but you are required to tell the DVLA if you develop any medical problem that affects your fitness to drive. If you don’t tell them, it’s a criminal offence.
In some American states drivers have to take an eye test every five years but not in the UK. Here, driver aged 70 and over must complete a medical form every three years confirming their fitness to drive and the definition of “fitness” includes eyesight. If theses drivers fail to send in their medical form, they lose their driving licence. (I wonder what that elderly gentleman at the traffic lights said on his?)
On the insurance front, if you are involved in an accident where your defective eyesight was a contributory factor, your insurance company may well argue that you were negligent and refuse to pay out. This could be simply because you needed glasses to drive but weren’t wearing them at the time.
So drive carefully, and keep your eyes peeled – elderly gentleman in Leeds please take note!