MP calls for eye tests for drivers over 70

Meg Munn , Labour, for Heeley Sheffield Central the General election count in the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, Sheffield  'See story ??????????  Picture Chris Lawton  06 May  2010
Meg Munn , Labour, for Heeley Sheffield Central the General election count in the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, Sheffield 'See story ?????????? Picture Chris Lawton 06 May 2010

A SHEFFIELD MP called in the Commons for tougher rules on eyesight testing for drivers in the wake of the case of a disabled city woman who was killed by an 87-year-old motorist with poor eyesight.

Heeley MP Meg Munn has been campaigning for sight checks at regular intervals for drivers aged over 70 after Fiona Buckley, aged 43, was hit by a driver with cataracts and blurred vision as she travelled along Abbey Lane, Beauchief, in her motorised scooter.

In a parliamentary debate, Ms Munn accused Transport Minister Theresa Villiers of “complacency”, saying the current eyesight test is “simply no longer fit for purpose”.

Many drivers do not notice what can be a gradual change in their vision, remaining unaware that they fall below the required legal eyesight standard, she said.

“The only way to make sure that drivers continue to have adequate vision is to make eyesight testing mandatory at regular intervals throughout the time they hold a licence.

“Drivers should have to provide regular proof that they have had their eyes tested by a medical professional and that they meet minimum standards for visual acuity and visual field. That should happen at least every 10 years, coinciding with drivers renewing their photo driving licence.

“That would be a simple and inexpensive step that would vastly improve the eyesight of drivers throughout the UK. I also recommend that when drivers reach the age of 70 and have to self-certify that they are fit to drive, they should be required to submit evidence from an appropriate professional that they have a safe and legal level of eyesight.”

Ms Munn took up the case after being contacted by Fiona Buckley’s aunt, Joy Barnes.

Ms Villiers expressed her “sincere condolences” over the death, but said current arrangements for testing drivers’ eyesight were “effective and working well”. She “completely refuted” the allegation of complacency.

The test of reading a car number plate at distance was “simple” and “a functional assessment of vision”.

“Someone at the age of 70 could be fitter, more alert and more active than some individuals who are younger, which is why licensing decisions are based on health rather than age.”

Current arrangements “strike the right balance between road safety and personal mobility”, added the minister.

Extra tests would cost taxpayers £30m a year as eye checks for the elderly are free and would still fail to prove a driver’s eyesight was good enough.

Fiona Buckley, who had spina bifida, died six weeks after being struck by a car in Abbey Lane in December 2008.

Doctors found the driver could not read a car number plate from the required distance of 20.5 metres, had cataracts in both eyes and suffered from age-related macular degeneration.

At Sheffield Crown Court, the pensioner pleaded guilty to death by careless driving but was given an absolute discharge after the court heard that even if he had normal vision he might not have seen her.

Joy Barnes said: “Fiona’s death could so easily have been prevented.

“As a family we are extremely saddened that once again the Government’s stance is that money will be the deciding factor over what is a sensible way forward with a fundamental principle, this being that anyone driving a vehicle on the road should have eyesight which does not render them a danger to other road users, pedestrians or themselves.”