The measures are contained in a consultation on the implementation of European minimum medical standards for drivers. While UK standards must be at least at the level of a minimum standard, the UK is not required to relax existing domestic standards where these are justifiably higher than the EU standards. However, where the Secretary of State’s Medical Advisory Panel has advised that a relaxation in standards is consistent with road safety, the recommendation is that this is adopted as the UK standard.
Road Safety Minister, Mike Penning, said:
“Britain has some of the safest roads in the world and licensing rules have an important role in maintaining this position. We must make sure that only those who are safe driving are allowed on our roads, while at the same time avoiding placing unnecessary restrictions on people’s independence.
“We have taken expert advice on the latest evidence on eyesight, epilepsy and diabetes and believe these proposals strike the right balance in allowing as many people as possible to drive, without compromising safety. We would welcome views from anyone affected by the changes and will consider all representations before setting out our final decisions.”
The main aspects of the new standards are:
Group 1 – Cars and Motorcycles – A reduction in the distance that a number plate can be read from to test visual acuity. Currently, a number plate test is conducted at a distance of 20 metres, this will be reduced to 17.5 metres.
Group 2 – Buses and Lorries – A change for those who wear spectacles in how they are assessed. The eyesight test will concentrate on vision standards with the driver wearing their glasses.
Group 1- Cars and Motorcycles – Drivers who only suffer seizures whilst asleep would be considered for a licence after one year instead of the current requirement of three years. Drivers who suffer seizures that have no impact on consciousness or the ability to act could, for the first time, be considered for a licence after one year.
Group 2 – Buses and Lorries – For the first time, there will be a definition of epilepsy. The new EU Directives provide a definition as being “two or more epileptic seizures less than five years apart”. The Secretary of State’s Medical Advisory Panel on neurology is content with this definition for Group 1 drivers. However, the panel recommends that for Group 2 drivers, the UK treats epilepsy as being “two or more epileptic seizures less than ten years apart”. Therefore, for Group 2 drivers the DVLA is proposing to adopt a higher standard than the EU standard.
Group 1 – Cars and Motorcycles – Under the proposals, licences will not be issued or renewed for drivers with recurrent severe hypoglycaemia and/or impaired hypoglycaemic awareness.
Group 2 – Buses and Lorries – Drivers who are treated with insulin would be considered for all Group 2 driver licensing, providing strict medical monitoring is met. Currently, Group 2 drivers treated with insulin are restricted to certain categories of vehicle.