Can you still read a car registration plate?

A recent car crash near Crowborough has highlighted the need for drivers to ensure their eyesight reaches the required standards.

Burred-Reg-Plate-2On Friday 27 June on the A26 at Boarshead a Mitsubishi Shogun 4×4 collided with an articulated lorry parked on the roadside outside the BP filling station.

Emergency services attended and the car driver, a 79-year-old man from Eridge Green, was cut free from his vehicle and taken to Pembury Hospital, Tunbridge Wells, for treatment to minor injuries. The lorry driver was unhurt.

When later required to take an eyesight test by reading a car number plate at a distance, the Shogun driver’s inability to do so shocked officers who were present.

Sergeant Dan Pitcher, of the East Sussex Road Policing Unit, said:

He was only able to clearly read a number plate at a distance of just one metre, or 39 inches.

The law says you must be able to read a number plate at 20.5 metres for an old style plate, or 20 metres for a new style one.

As a result, the gentleman’s driving licence was immediately revoked by the DVLA and he is no longer allowed behind the wheel.

Sgt Pitcher said it was fortunate that the driver’s poor vision had not had more serious consequences.

He urged all motorists to ensure that they are visually capable of driving according to the law’s requirements.

It is not only older drivers who need to ensure they have good enough eye-sight to drive.  Earlier this year a young law student was reported to be so shortsighted he could only identify a car number plate from a distance of seven feet.  He was not wearing his glasses when he fatally injured a pedestrian on a crossing.

GEM Motoring Assist, based at Forest Row, has been campaigning for many years to get the driving and vision laws revised, and has regularly called for a compulsory professional eye test for all drivers applying for their provisional licence, and for this test to be repeated at 10 yearly intervals.  At present the first time your eye-sight is checked is at the driving test, after you’ve been driving on the roads as a learner for many hours.  And even then it is a driving examiner who performs the test rather than an qualified optician.

David Williams, GEM chief executive, said:

At least 90% of the information we use in driving comes through seeing, so good vision is essential for road safety.  If you can’t see properly, you cannot drive safely.

Sussex Police

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