23 Nov Rebecca Harris MP supports campaign to end fatal road collisions
An MP Led Campaign pledges to end fatal road collisions at hands of visually-impaired motorists, 10 years after Rochford bride-to-be was killed by partially blind driver
Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris has supported a campaign to make our roads safer, as she joined a list of MPs who are supporting the Road Safety Week this year. Inspired by the story of Natalie Wade who lost her life on valentine’s day due to a driver who had been advised that his eyesight was poor she has now declared that ‘Every week should be Road Safety Week’.
Natalie Wade, aged 28, was shopping for her wedding dress with her mum when she was hit by a partially sighted driver as she walked across a pedestrian crossing. She died five days later, on Valentine’s Day 2006. The 78-year-old driver who hit Natalie had been told by medical professionals that his sight was too poor to continue driving, yet he did so unlawfully.
For the past ten years Natalie’s aunt, Reverend Brenda Gutberlet, has campaigned for a change in the law, without success. Ahead of Road Safety Week (21-27 November 2016), Brenda is joining a group of MPs to support Vision Express with an industry-leading initiative. The national optician aims to safeguard the UK’s roads by raising awareness of the importance of regular eye tests for drivers – as results from its research reveal almost one in five UK drivers haven’t had an eye test in over five years.
Rebecca Harris MP told us : “Ten years on from Natalie’s tragic death and despite campaigning alongside Brenda, we are still no further forward in treating poor driver sight as an issue fundamental to the safety of our roads.
“The latest Highways England road safety report sets out a strategic plan to prevent people being harmed whilst on the road network, addressing issues which impair driving such as fatigue, distraction, alcohol and drugs – with no reference to sight impediment. This shows shocking neglect of the problem poor driver sight poses to road safety. Another example is the DVLA licence renewal form, which is wholly ineffective. It currently asks drivers to self-certify that they meet the legal eyesight requirement for driving. The Vision Express research shows that 92% of drivers believe they meet this requirement – yet over 60% could not identify what the correct standard is. The question the DVLA needs to be asking is ‘when was your last eye test?’. And if it’s more than two years, a check-up should be mandatory.”
Brenda has since been tirelessly campaigning to put in place legislation so it is not the sole responsibility of the driver to inform the DVLA if their eyesight falls below the standard to drive. When polled by Vision Express, over half of drivers (51%) agreed with Brenda that this voluntary approach should be abolished, with 75% stating they would support legislation to make proof of a recent eye test mandatory when renewing a driving licence.Vision Express is lobbying Government to display ‘Eye Tests Save Lives’ signs across major highways during Road Safety Week. Six in ten drivers surveyed agree this would be worthwhile. Transport Scotland have pledged to display the messages on their roads for the week, yet Highways England has so far declined the proposal.
Supporters of Vision Express’s campaign include Lord Bradshaw, Viscount Simon, who is president and trustee of GEM road safety charity and MPs Huw Merriman, Stuart Andrew, Flick Drummond, Andrew Bridgen, Barry Sheerman (Chair of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety (PACTS)) and Brenda’s local MP, Rebecca Harris. They have presented questions in Parliament and called on the Secretaries of Health and Transport to address driver sight as a major road safety concern.