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Number of motorists who lose licence due to poor eyesight more than doubles since 2006

However, that represents less than 1 in 10,000 drivers - and with ageing population, problem will only worsen

The number of motorists who have had their driving licences taken away because their vision is too poor for them to drive has jumped sharply over the past four years - although that only translates to less than 1 in 10,000. Meanwhile, with Britain's ageing population, more than 3 million people aged 71 and older, many of whose vision will be deteriorating, now hold a driving licence.

According to a report on MSN News UK, following a Freedom of Information request, Co-operative Motor Group discovered that some 4,009 motorists had their licences withdrawn due to poor eyesight in 2010, compared to 1,597 in 2006, an increase of 151 per cent.

Moreover, there is a clear upward trend over the past four years, with 2,612 licences withdrawn in 2007 because of poor vision, 2,764 in 2008 and 3,014 in 2009.

Co-operative Motor Group managing director Tony Guest commented: "Good eyesight is essential to safe motoring, and we would urge anybody who has concerns over their vision to contact a specialist. There is no room for complacency when it comes to road safety."

The law requires that any driver who is concerned about their eyesight should visit a doctor or other qualified professional, and if they are told that their condition means it is dangerous for them to drive, they are required to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). Should they not do so, they may be liable to a fine of up to £1,000 and their motor insurance may also be rendered invalid.

According to the DVLA’s annual report for 2010/11, the agency closed some 719,027 medical cases during that year. In terms of licensing decisions it was required to make as a result, some 247,094 full licences and 196,531 short period licences were issued, while 30,993 licences were either refused or revoked.

With some 44 million driving licences currently issued in the UK, according to DVLA statistics, however, less than one in 10,000 motorists had their licence withdrawn as a result of poor vision in 2010.

That's despite more than 3.6 million of those licences are issued to people aged 71 and over, a segment of the population particularly likely to suffer from deteriorating vision.

Currently, drivers in the UK are required to reapply for their licence on their 70th birthday and every three years thereafter, with the onus on the driver to notify the DVLA of any change in their medical circumstances, including their eyesight.

It therefore seems reasonable to assume that many people with poor eyesight or other health issues are continuing to drive without seeking medical advice, perhaps fearful that they will no longer be permitted to drive – a theme explored in a 2010 BBC documentary, Taking The Keys Away.

Earlier this year, a report from road safety charity the RAC Foundation compiled on behalf of the International Longevity Centre – UK maintained that “when older drivers are deciding whether or not to continue using their cars they find there is a marked lack of support and information available to help them make the appropriate decision.

“This means many drivers will retire from driving at too early a stage while others will go on beyond the point where it is safe to do so.”

Currently, drivers aged 70 and over are required to re-apply for their driving licence The report added that “Given the importance of eyesight to driving, the role of opticians also needs to be clarified and enhanced.”

It added that “Where significant problems with eyesight exist, opticians must surely have a ‘last resort’ duty to inform the DVLA so that appropriate measures can be taken,” but acknowledged in a footnote that “Opticians seemingly do have this duty at the moment, but it is not commonly used, not least because they do not have an appropriate test to use to deduce whether people’s eyesight is fit to drive.”

“However,” the RAC Foundation went on to say, “care must be taken that this duty does not lead to fewer older people seeking the advice of opticians regarding their eyesight, for fear of losing their driving licence - indeed opticians are likely to oppose any policy which may lead to such an outcome.”

With an ageing population, this appears to be a problem that is only going to get worse, so some clear guidance is needed from the Department for Transport or the DVLA for both older drivers and doctors and other healthcare professionals such as opticians. As ever, this should reinforce the fact that driving is a privilege, not a right, even for the elderly.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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whizzkid | 12 years ago

I would have like to have read this article as it seems an important subject but sadly I could not find my glasses. Maybe I have left them in the car....or more likely my saddle bag...

shaun finnis | 12 years ago

I have a medical problem for which I have a full driving and I also cycle a great deal actually more than drive. The point I'm trying to make is my license expires every 3 years and have to be checked out medically before I get a further 3 years. This is done for my safety and all other road users. Why can't they do the same for the eye test , no eye check no license! Call it an MOT your 'motor vehicle' requires a health check after its 3 years old...

hairyairey | 12 years ago

How about this as a solution? Make regular eye tests mandatory to hold a driving license. Don't have an eye test - can't drive. Simples...

hairyairey | 12 years ago

Unfortunately this is an issue that's not related to age. Too many people are too proud to get an eye test. How many of you have an eye test every two years? I regularly see hesitant drivers at roundabouts who are obviously unable to see how far away cars are. You'll recognise these they are the ones who won't pull out until there are no cars in sight. If I were a traffic officer I would pull over drivers for hesitation much more than any other offence.

barogerl | 12 years ago

As a 79 yr old driver,who still thinks her eyesight is good, though I wear glasses to read a phone book, the question of seeing seems to me superflous.
Inthis is am reminded that sherlock Holmes once said to Watson.
" My dear Sir, you see, but you do not observe. Too many driver just glancearound, not really takingin what is visible, which is why there are so many SMIDSY accidents

A V Lowe | 12 years ago

My late father's driving began to move towards the less than ideal and having been a widower from some time he also enjoyed the company of a widow for trips out, often by car. She later told us that as the years progressed she feigned 'car sickness' to avoid the risks of a long car journey and suggest travel by coach or train instead. My dad died before it came to the point of having to get seriously persuasive, although he was coming round to the idea of driving less, and rethinking his travel arrangements.

Oh that more had the courage of Faith Lawson, a stalwart of the Pedestrians Association, whose story appears in life Beyond Cars, and whose work is recognised in the eponymous TfL offices on Dacre Street. She positively rejoiced in discovering the wonderful things she learned as she met the people working on the streets of London, walking around.

We need a clear and well supported detox programme on an addiction that kills more people than proscribed drugs - motoring!

Recumbenteer | 12 years ago

My father has Altzheimers. Some years ago, when I considered his memory would preclude him from driving safely, I took his keys away to ensure he couldn't drive. Later-on I wrote to the DVLA to get his licence revoked.

1961BikiE | 12 years ago

A fella was only telling me the other day about an accident that occured to him. The usual car pulls out on cyclist. The "problem" was made worse for the guy who was telling me the story by the fact that the car stopped some yards away from him and the driver got out and came walking over to check him out. The driver stopped before getting to said prostrate rider, going back to his car and, No not driving off, getting his glasses and putting them on before walking back. The driver was taken aback and couldn't understand the threats made against him by the rider as "I only want to see (sic) if you're ok".

monty dog | 12 years ago

The renewal of a driving licence for over-70s should be supported by an eye-test, motor skills and awareness tests paid for by the driver - they are often a hazard to themselves and others. Following drivers are often inclined to make dangerous manoeuvres as a consequence - they might not directly be involved in an accident but they often leave a trail of carnage behind.

A few years ago we had a local incident where a car driven by an 80 year old woman on a straight, clear road in daylight careered across the pavement, killing the woman standing at the bus stop and injuring her child in the pushchair. The driver had defective eyesight and a heart condition and no-one considered that she was a risk.

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