Motorists banned in error after faulty DVLA visual field test

An article in The Guardian (17th October 2015) reported that hundreds of drivers have been taken off the road due to faulty visual field equipment used between 2010 and 2015. The DVLA banned over 600 motorists from driving following tests carried out by government appointed optometrists, but the DVLA now admits that the test results were false. This will mainly apply to people with glaucoma and diabetes retinopathy, both of which can cause visual field loss.

The DVLA is refusing to compensate drivers, many of whom have been forced to sell their cars, pay for taxis or other forms of transport, not to mention people who could have lost their jobs as a result of not being able to drive. The DVLA blames the makers of the equipment for the fault, which was a software problem in the equipment causing the lights to shine less brightly than they should have. Some people may have been able to detect the lights if the higher brightness level had been used and these people should not have lost their licences.  

Although the DVLA maintains that as soon as they were aware of the problem, they contacted everyone who had been tested on the faulty equipment, it not only rejects liability but has made it very difficult to make a claim against the equipment manufacturer by refusing to disclose the company name. However, the government agency could face a potential multi-million-pound bill if people joined together using the new-style class legal actions permitted under the recently enacted Consumer Rights Act.

The agency says that of the 604 people affected, less than half of those who replied have sought to reapply for their licences; 71 are still awaiting a reassessment; and the DVLA is trying to get in touch with the 232 who have not yet responded. Around 80% of those who agreed to be reassessed have since had their licences restored.

The contract with Specsavers

Prior to 2013, the DVLA had a list of ‘approved optometrists’ for people to attend but since 2013, everyone who is required to have a field test by the DVLA has to go to a branch of Specsavers, dissatisfaction already discussed in IDDT Newsletters. The Guardian quotes the DVLA as saying …the contract had to be tendered in accordance with the Public Contracts Regulations 2006. Specsavers provided the most economically advantageous tender.” It was worth £8million to Specsavers.

Unanswered questions

Apparently Specsavers claim that it is thanks to its exclusive contract with the DVLA that the problem with the visual field analysers came to light. While this may be meant to be reassuring, it leaves some unanswered questions.

  • Does the DVLA know who was tested on the faulty equipment between 2010 and 2013 when a variety of optometrists were used?
  • Has everyone that should be contacted, been contacted?

The answers are not clear but if you feel that this could apply to you, we recommend that you appeal to the DVLA.

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