South Wales Police have begun to revoke driving licences from motorists if they ignore safety advice and fail an on-the-spot eye test.
In a series of day-long exercises – the first of their kind in South Wales – roads policing officers will be stopping motorists to raise awareness about their improved roadside capacity which could lead to motorists losing their licence with almost immediate effect.
Drivers will be invited to read the registration plate of a vehicle parked 20 metres away in a test which simulates the acceptable ‘legal standard for visual acuity’ set by the DVLA.
Those who fail the test could face the stark possibility of having their driving licence revoked within hours, but officers will mainly be looking to give motorists advice to drive away with.
The police service and the DVLA have worked together to digitise the driving licence revocation process, drastically speeding it up.
Police officers now use handheld devices to report offending drivers, and a quick email response from the DVLA means a licence can be revoked on the same day somebody is caught. However, this will only happen in the most extreme cases where motorists present an immediate and serious risk to themselves and other road users. Other less serious cases are given a 48 hour completion target or are committed to a non urgent postal transaction.
This new way of working reduces the ‘window of risk’ and officers can serve notification on motorists that it would be an arrestable offence to get into their vehicle and drive away, effectively preventing them from doing so.
This issue was thrust in the spotlight when in February 2011, Cassie McCord, aged 16, was killed by an 87 year-old driver who refused to surrender his licence despite failing an on-the-spot eye sight test three days earlier when he drove into the exit of a petrol station. According to the Department for Transport, only 10% of drivers over the age of 50 have regular eye sight tests.
Superintendent Steve Furnham, said:
“There are cultural taboos around drink driving, not wearing seatbelts and using mobile phones whilst driving. Motorists ensuring they are wearing appropriate eye wear in order for them to drive safely is just as important.
“Any vehicle in the hands of somebody who doesn’t have full control of it is a lethal weapon. Our aim through these operations is to raise public awareness about the importance of eyesight when driving.
“There is no gratification in taking away somebody’s right to drive, but people must take responsibility for their actions. There will be no hesitation if they present a serious and immediate risk to themselves and other road users.
“Hopefully the threat of losing their driving licence there and then will help reduce the number of people who choose to shrug off problems with their eyesight, or their responsibility to wear appropriate eyewear before they get behind the wheel.”
Four operations across South Wales have been planned over the next four weeks. They will take place in Talbot Green, Cardiff, Aberdare and Rhondda.
DVLA Spokesperson, Victoria Ford said:
“Reducing road casualties is a top priority and our licensing rules play an important part in keeping our roads safe.
“All drivers have a responsibility to make sure they are fit to drive, every time they get behind the wheel and this includes making sure they meet minimum eyesight standards.
“The DVLA works closely with the police and the new streamlined process for revoking a licence means that any driver who fails to meet the necessary standard may have their licence revoked in a matter of hours rather than days.”