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Hundreds of motorists in the UK have had their driving licences revoked after failing roadside eye tests performed under new police powers, figures show.
The new powers were given to the police in 2013 and were prompted by the tragic death of 16 year old Cassie McCord in 2011. Cassie died from serious head injuries after 87 year old, Colin Horsfall, lost control of his vehicle in Colchester.
It later emerged that Horsfall had been involved in a minor collision days earlier, after which he failed a police eyesight test. However, despite the police spending two hours attempting to persuade Horsfall not to drive again, a loophole in the law meant that he was allowed to continue driving.
Jackie Rason, Cassie’s mother, has campaigned for a change in the law to allow the DVLA to revoke licences more quickly and in 2013 a new procedure was introduced – popularly known as ‘Cassie’s law’.
Figures have recently been obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, show that since the powers were introduced, police forces across Britain applied 631 times to revoke licenses due to failed attempts to read number plates and 609 of these were revoked by the DVLA.
Ms Rason described the findings as “brilliant news” and was pleased that the change “had potentially saved dozens of lives”.
“I had no idea until now that it was being used so widely, and it is very satisfying to know it is making a difference,” she said.
“That’s more than 600 people who could still be driving, perhaps without even knowing there was a problem with their sight.”
“You can’t say that in every case they would have killed somebody, but it is very likely to have prevented fatal accidents and other casualties.”
All motorists are required by law to be able to correctly read a number plate from 20 metres away in daylight.
However, at the time of Mr Horsfall’s collision, the police had no powers to immediately suspend driving licences. He later mounted a kerb, killing Cassie as she walked home with a friend.
Since the changes were introduced, police officers can how ask for licenses to be urgently revoked, if they feel that the safety of other road users would be put at risk if the driver remains on the road.
A new system brought about by the DVLA and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) -now National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), speeds up the processing of roadside eyesight test failures by electronically notifying the DVLA and issuing motorists with a Licence revocation notice within hours rather than days.
There are three levels of revocation under the new system – immediate, within 48 hours and postal – whereby the driver will be dealt with via letter sent within 24 hours of notification from the police.
If the disqualified driver continues to drive, they are committing a criminal offence, which may lead to their arrest or their vehicle being seized.
Nearly a third of Britain’s motorists do not meet the legal standard of eyesight to drive, motorists with inadequate eyesight are responsible for around 2,900 casualties every year, costing £33million. These startling results come from a report commissioned by insurance company RSA.
Michael Reed Marketing Director at Licence Bureau Ltd commented, “It’s blindingly obvious drivers should all undergo regular eye sight tests. At Licence Bureau we are actively raising this issue. We currently link with Specsavers to offer our clients vouchers in relation to improving drivers’ vision, raising awareness of this issue and making our roads a safer environment for all.”
When the change was introduced, Sue Harrison, Essex police’s assistant chief constable, said: “I very much welcome this new procedure.
“It is a positive step forward and will enable our officers to immediately refer serious cases to the DVLA.”
“This new procedure is a great testament to Jackie’s relentless determination and resilience, which I highly commend.”
Ms Rason hopes to continue campaigning for mandatory eye tests for all drivers and extra checks for over-70s.
“If your car is more than three years old, you have to have an MOT [a mechanical and emissions test] to certify it’s roadworthy,” she said. “Why shouldn’t that be the same for drivers?”
Individual police forces could not say how many times they had applied under the new powers, known as D751E referrals, because such information is only recorded in officers’ notebooks.
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