§ 35. Mr. Darling
asked the Minister of Transport whether he is satisfied that the declaration by an applicant for a driving licence that he can see a number plate 25 yards away is a sufficient guarantee that licences are not granted to persons with dangerously poor sight; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Hay
At the beginning of every driving test a candidate is asked by the examiner to read a number plate at a distance of 25 yards; if he cannot do so the test is cancelled. Drivers who subsequently seek renewal of their driving licences are responsible for the truth and accuracy of the statements they make on the application form, including the declaration referred to by the hon. Member. Licensing authorities have power under the Road Traffic Act, 1930, to revoke a driving licence if they become aware that a driver's eyesight does not reach the standard required by the Regulations.
§ Mr. Darling
Would the Joint Parliamentary Secretary agree that, when evidence is forthcoming, it is usually alter the accident and not before? Further, is he aware that a large percentage of drivers on the roads took out their licences before 1939, or in some cases 1933, and have never passed the test? Even if they have passed it, their eyesight deteriorates with the passage of time. Would the hon. Gentleman consult the ophthalmic surgeons in order to devise a suitable optical test, so that after a certain period all drivers can take a simple test to find out whether their eyesight is satisfactory?
§ Mr. Hay
We have looked at this difficult problem. The advice my right hon. Friend has at the moment is that, even in the case of those drivers who have a licence but who have never passed a driving test because they took out their original licence before the Act came into force, the requirement to complete the declaration on the application for renewal of the driving licence provides an adequate safeguard. However, our minds are not closed on this point, and if there were any concrete evidence that some change should be made for the general public advantage, we would look into it.
§ Mr. Osborne
Would my hon. Friend look at the suggestion made by certain 166 of his specialists that drivers over the age of 75 should have to undergo an eyesight test once a year to show that they are really fit to be in charge of a car?
40. Mr. Gresham Cooke
asked the Minister of Transport when he expects the waiting period for a driving test to lessen so that Section 18 (1) of the Road Traffic Act, 1956, limiting the period of a provisional licence, can be brought into force.
§ Mr. Marples
I regret that I cannot at the moment forecast when Section 18 (1) is likely to be brought into force.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are a great number of drivers who have been fiddling along for many years with provisional licences and using the excuse that they cannot get a driving test? Some of them may have been driving with defective eyesight because they have not been tested. It is of great importance for road safety that this Section, which requires people to get licences within a year of receiving a provisional licence, should be brought into force.