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Jane Bates: as an ophthalmic nurse, telling someone they can't see well enough to drive is not my favourite task

I'm glad driver eyesight – or lack of it – is now being taken seriously by traffic police

I'm glad driver eyesight – or lack of it – is now being taken seriously by traffic police


People aren't always able to face up to the truth about their fitness to drive. Picture: iStock

When I retire from nursing, I shall hang up my blue uniform, donate those sensible shoes to charity and start a new career as a lie detector.  

I have the experience and the expertise – I can spot porkies a mile off.

'Patients promise they'll never drive again. You know they will'

In the eye clinic I have heard fibs so flagrant that if the situation had not been so serious, I would have almost felt sorry for the person giving me that glassy fixed stare.

‘I promise you I will never drive again,’ they say, and you know jolly well they will.

Roadside sight checks

It was therefore a great relief to know that anyone in my area stopped by the police will have their eyesight checked to ensure their vision is good enough to see a number plate at 20 metres. That is the yardstick – anything less and they should not be on the road.  

Over the years, I have encountered many different reactions when I have (gently, I promise you) informed patients that their sight is not good enough for driving.

It has been everything from understandable fury: ‘How do you expect me to take my disabled wife to her appointments?’ To tears. ‘I can’t walk very far – this is the end of my life, then.’ It is not my favourite task.

People see themselves as exceptions

One woman told me I had spoilt her life and there was nothing I could do to stop her driving, which was ultimately true because some people, however much you rationalise and remonstrate, seem to see themselves as a special case. 

The ‘my car knows its own way home’ attitude sums it up.

Thank goodness this is now being taken seriously by law enforcers, and I hope these checks will act as a deterrent. But what a tragedy that it has taken some heart-breaking events to bring this about.


Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 

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