We tend to take mobility and ‘our own set of wheels’ for granted but, as a seasoned motorist, motor trade professional or insurance broker will confirm, it’s a privilege most of us will have to give up sooner or later.
Motor trade car dealers are happy to sell us all vehicles, but only those classed as fit to drive will qualify for a driving licence.
Naturally, we all believe we are perfectly fit to drive, nevertheless all drivers are required to meet certain minimum health standards falling into two categories:
2. Physical health
Before being allowed to take a practical driving test, every learner driver is subject to a rudimentary eye check, traditionally this requires all test participants (with the help of glasses if necessary) to correctly read the registration plate of a vehicle at 20 metres.
Rather strangely, learners are given 3 chances to produce the right sequence, but there are consequences for those who cannot do so. Firstly, they will not be able to take a driving test, and secondly, the DVLA will be informed.
Once the DVLA become aware of a learner’s poor eyesight that driving licence will be revoked. A driver can still reapply for a new licence, but they will have to undergo a more stringent eye check before any further licence is granted.
Drivers aged 70 and over are also required to make a formal declaration their vision is still up to standard. Though no evidence is required at the time of the declaration, any subsequent motoring offences or mishaps, where the older driver’s poor eye health contributed to the outcome could have serious consequences for the individual – including a driving disqualification.
Eyesight deteriorates quite slowly, so, drivers of any age may be genuinely unaware their eyesight no longer meets legal standards.
But just visit any motor trade premises or motor mechanic and they will explain just how many drivers damage their own, and other vehicles simply because they got into difficulties driving with poor eyesight.
GEM Motoring Assist is a UK road safety group campaigning to address this situation. GEM CEO Neil Worth explains: “Poor eyesight is linked to nearly 3,000 fatal and serious injury collisions every year. We are concerned that there are too many people driving whose eyesight has deteriorated to a dangerous level… We urge everyone to prioritise safety and ensure they have a proper eye examination with an optician every two years. Eye tests allow professionals to identify and correct any problems, meaning the risks of driving are reduced and the road environment is safer.”
A driver’s physical health
Certain medical conditions can also call a person’s fitness to drive into question. Drivers must make a declaration that they do not suffer from medical conditions which could impair their driving when applying for a driving licence, and when seeking to renew a driving licence once they reach the age of 70.
In addition, drivers are expected to declare any relevant health conditions, both when taking out and when renewing a private or motor trade insurance policy.
Nevertheless, it is often health professionals who must advise patients when a medical condition will temporarily or permanently affect their ability to drive.
Difficult as it is to accept such a verdict, there is absolutely no advantage in trying to disguise the fact and continue driving. Not only would such an action risk your own health, but discovery would also immediately invalidate your driving licence and your insurance cover.
One outcome would be a prosecution under the driving laws, but a potentially far more serious scenario would occur if the lives of others were put at risk through your own actions.