Can The Police Test My Eyesight?
What power do the police have to test my eyesight?
There have been many articles in the press about police forces undertaking random checks on motorists and revoking licences at the roadside. But what powers exactly do the police have?
Can the police stop me?
Under section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 a uniformed police officer has the authority to stop a driver on the road. If a police officer requests for you do stop is an offence if you fail to comply.
Does the officer have to be in uniform?
Yes, they have to be in uniform for failure to comply to be an offence. An officer who is not in uniform may request for you to stop, although it is not an offence to refuse.
What is the law about vision and driving?
You must be able to read a registration plate from 20 metres (approximately five car lengths). Without this ability it is an offence to drive.
Can the police ask me to do a roadside eye test?
Yes, you may be asked to undertake the test voluntarily. Otherwise, there must be a suspicion that you may be guilty of driving when you cannot comply with the vision test requirement. If the officer does suspect, you can be required to submit to a test.
Section 96 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 provides this power. The test can only be carried out between 8am and 9pm, in daylight.
What if I refuse to do the test?
It is an offence to refuse to carry out the test if the police officer believes that you have been driving without the ability to complete the test.
What could happen?
Under section 163, you can be punished by a fine if you fail to stop for a police officer.
Driving with uncorrected defective eyesight or refusing to submit to a test of vision carries a fine, discretionary disqualification and an obligatory endorsement of three penalty points.
What about my licence, can it be revoked?
The police can report you to the DVLA if you fail a vision test at the roadside, or fail to comply.
There is a fast track system whereby a decision to revoke your licence can quickly be made, such a decision taking place within hours. If they revoke your licence, it will only be returned when you can prove that your eyesight meets the required standard.
Your licence being revoked will not prevent a prosecution for the offences outlined above.
Why is this in the news?
The power for fast-track revocation has been in existence since 2013. The power is now being widely reported as three police forces have announced that they intend to undertake such checks at the roadside, this could soon be extended nationwide.
Based on a study by the Association of Optometrists it is estimated that some 1 million people in the UK are driving illegally. According to RSA Insurance, it is estimated that eyesight problems cause nearly 3000 casualties annually on the UK roads.
According to the police forces involved in the initiative, they will be gathering data regarding the extent of any issues. Potentially, this could lead to a further mandatory vision test at some stage after the practical driving test.
How we can assist
If you are being investigated for or have been charged with this offence please contact our office for further advice and representation, our solicitors are experts in criminal law and can guide you through the complexities. Call us on 0161 477 1121 or contact us directly.