Fleet News

Eye test 'law' set to ground drivers

BRITISH employers could find some of their most important staff 'grounded' as new proposals emerge from Brussels for compulsory company car driver eye tests.

The proposals, raised during a meeting between the European Union and motoring organisations, would introduce eye checks for all drivers aged over 45, and revoke the licences of drivers who fail the test.

Under the plan, which is at the discussion stage, drivers would have to take eye tests every 10 years after they reach 45. Currently, only drivers reaching 70 years of age undergo any check, and that simply involves a declaration that they can see properly.

The AA has welcomed the potential for improving driver safety, but warns the system could prove unworkable.

Andrew Howard, head of road safety for the AA, said: 'Setting up the mechanism is difficult. The EU is wonderful at coming up with directives that it never tells you how to implement. How would you ensure drivers who need to wear glasses while driving actually do?'

Road safety group Brake said the eye test proposal should be a warning to fleets to check immediately the vision of all their drivers.

At a recent Brake conference, only five out of 86 fleet managers said they had an eyesight checking policy, while an Eyecare Trust survey estimated that up to 3.5 million drivers cannot see properly. And a survey carried out by optician SpecSavers revealed half of drivers have defective eyesight.

In addition, more than 25% of drivers interviewed admitted to driving without their glasses or contact lenses.

A spokeswoman for Brake said: 'Company policy should include an eyesight test for all new drivers before they start work, or proof that they have had one recently, and regular eyesight tests for all drivers at least once every two years.

'This should include an examination of a driver's field of vision in the eyesight test.' The only compulsory check drivers have on their vision is before they take their test, when they have to read a number plate at 20.5 metres in good daylight and have a field of vision of 120 degrees.

It is a criminal offence for someone to drive if their vision is below the legal minimum and insurance would be invalid if they fail to meet this standard. Some fleets have already taken action, with Consignia including eyesight tests as part of routine medicals.

Drivers who fail the test are transferred to other duties. Steven Boorman, director employee health services and chief medical adviser at Consignia, said: 'Driver health screening is an important component of ensuring the safety of our drivers. 'Eyesight can change and deteriorate with time so it is very important that our drivers are tested on a regular basis.'

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