What power do the police have to test my eyesight?

There has been a bit of a commotion in the press about various police forces undertaking random eye-sight tests on passing motorists and revoking licences there and then. So, what are their powers and are they entitled to do this?

Are the police allowed to stop me?

Any uniformed police officer has the power to stop a driver of a vehicle, under section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and failure to comply with such a request is an offence.

Does the officer have to be in uniform?

Whilst an officer not in uniform has the common law power to request a driver to stop, there would be no penalty for failure to comply.

What is the law about driving and defective eyesight?

Any driver is required to be able to read a registration plate from about five car lengths (20m). Driving with uncorrected defective eyesight is an offence.

Can the police ask me to submit to roadside eye test?

You could be asked to undertake a voluntary eye-test. Failure to comply with the request for a voluntary eye-test raises the suspicion that you could be guilty of driving. In such instances, if the officer suspects you are guilty of a driving offence, you can be required to submit to a test under Section 96 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The test must be conducted in good natural light, between the hours of 8am and 9pm.

What if I refuse to do the test?

If the officer has a reasonable cause to suspect that you have been driving while your eyesight is such that you would fail and eyesight test or if you refuse to submit to an eyesight test, you are committing an offence.

What could happen?

Under section 163, Failure to stop for a police officer can be punished by a fine.

If you are found to be driving with uncorrected defective eyesight or if you refuse to submit to a test of vision the penalties include fine, discretionary disqualification and an obligatory endorsement of three penalty points on your license.

What about my licence, can it be revoked?

Failure to comply with a request with a for a roadside vision test or if you fail a vision test at the roadside the police are entitled to immediately report this fact to the DVLA.

A fast track system allows a decision on whether to revoke your license can be made with a number of hours and will not be returned until you can demonstrate that your eyesight meets the required standards.

Your licence being revoked will not eliminate the potential for prosecution for the offences detailed above.

Why is this in the news?

The power for fast-track revocation has existed since 2013 but has hit the headlines in recent months due to the fact that three police forces have declared their intention to carry out such checks at the roadside, with the potential for this policy to be extended nationwide.

The Association of Optometrists has carried out a study and estimate that up to 1 million people in the UK are driving illegally. According to RSA Insurance estimates nearly 3000 casualties per year on UK roads occur as a result of defective eyesight.

The three police forces currently involved in the initiative will be gathering data to establish the extent of the issue. Potentially, if the data supports the need, this could lead to a program of mandatory vision tests at various stages after passing the practical driving test.

What can we do to help?

We are experts in road traffic law and can advise you if you are facing investigation or prosecution. To discuss any aspect of your case, please call us on 01612492700.

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