Not every small and medium-size business has a specialist fleet management provider like Vehicle Consulting caring for their at-work drivers and company car and van fleets, the role often handled part-time by someone in HR or finance, or by the business owner.
With increased awareness over corporate manslaughter, GDPR data protection and duty of care regularly discussed in fleet publications and the wider media, managing a fleet of even just a handful of vehicles involves much more than simply checking that all personnel have a valid driving licence, with health assessments also part of the role.
Adequate eyesight and good vision are vitally important when behind the wheel of a potentially dangerous car or van, and UK law has long required drivers to be able to read number plates from 20m or around 65ft in good daylight conditions, backed by a sufficient field of vision to see what’s going on around them. This is approximately the length of five cars or two buses and we certainly can’t argue with the fairness of the stipulation. Wearing glasses or contact lenses is acceptable and those with only one functioning eye are unsurprisingly still required to meet the legal standard.
Ensuring that a driver can read the registration or ‘licence’ plate of a vehicle dated 2001 or newer from this minimum specified distance has been part of the UK driving test for many years, and we agree with growing support from the likes of GEM Motoring Assist for drivers to be retested annually from 70 in the name of road safety.
In 2011, 16-year-old Cassie McCord was killed after an 87-year-old driver, who had refused to relinquish his driving licence after failing a police eyesight test mere days before, swerved onto the pavement. Cassie’s Law was introduced a couple of years later giving police the authority to request that a driver’s licence is immediately revoked for reasons including uncompliant eyesight.
Almost 50,000 UK drivers had their licences revoked or renewal refused between 2012 and 2016 because of inadequate eyesight, and it’s reported that over 3,000 road casualties occur each year with some kind of link to poor vision.
West Midlands Police’s road safety initiative for cyclists called Operation Close Pass found after stopping 81 drivers between March 1st and August 20th this year that around 5% worryingly failed to meet basic eyesight standards. While the force admittedly only reported assessing the vision of 81 motorists, which is a very small sample, the finding nevertheless points to a likely national trend once extrapolated.
Stockport neighbours CDL Vehicle Information Systems Limited, based just one M60 motorway junction from Vehicle Consulting, decided to check whether its own staff could all meet the 20-metre UK standard for eyesight amongst drivers. Only a few of the firm’s personnel could recall their vision having been checked since passing their driving tests and, to everyone’s relief, every driver was able to read the test number plate even though it was raining – which isn’t uncommon in this neck of the woods. CDL is the parent company of mycarcheck, a car lookup service powered by data from the DVLA, car insurance and finance providers, the police and others.
For dedicated fleet managers and anyone else who manages even just a small number of vehicles perhaps including grey fleet personal vehicles sometimes used for at-work activity, ensuring that all drivers meet the 20m legal standard is an important part of duty of care. All other private drivers are also encouraged to have their eyesight and vision checked at least once pear year to maintain safety on the UK’s roads.