Proposals to amend the Driving Licence Standards for Vision, Diabetes and Epilepsy

New rules on the driving licence standards are to be introduced in January 2013.  These relate to Vision, Diabetes and Epilepsy.
The current driver licensing rules in the UK are based on the second European Council Directive on driving licences (91/439/EC).  The Third Directive on driving licences (2006/126/EC) is to be implemented by 19 January 2013.
The Directive recognises two groups of drivers:
Group 1 relates to vehicle categories A and B.  These include 2 or 3 wheeled vehicles, cars and light cans up to 3.5 tonnes.
Group 2 relates to vehicle categories C, and D (and their sub categories of C1 and D1). These include medium and large lorries and buses.
New applicants will need to meet the new standard when the domestic legislation implementing the EU standards comes into force.
Group 2 drivers will currently be assessed at age 45, or if they are already over 45 at their next 5 yearly check (or sooner if they have short period medical licences).  It is proposed that with effect from the first photocard renewal after January 2013, Group 2 drivers will be assessed 5 yearly irrespective of age
Vision
The current standard is that applicants for a licence (or renewal) must have a visual acuity, with corrective lenses if necessary, of at least Snellen 6/7.5 (decimal 0.8) in the better eye and at least Snellen 6/12 (decimal 0.5) in the worse eye
The proposed regulations will raise the better eye standard to Snellen 6/9.  In theory, some vocational drivers could lose their Group 2 entitlement on renewal, even though their eyesight has not changed.  However, the appropriate standard is only marginally higher than that currently applied, so the number affected is expected to be minimal.  The government also proposes to lower the worse eye standard to decimal 0.1.
Drivers who wear spectacles to meet eyesight standards will need to provide evidence (such as an optician’s prescription) to demonstrate that their spectacles meet the requirement.
The Directive also requires that driving licences shall not be issued to, or renewed for, applicants suffering impaired contrast sensitivity, but it does not state any measurements to be applied.
It is also proposed that, after a substantial loss of vision in one eye, there should be an appropriate adaption period during which a driver is not allowed to drive.  Driving is then only allowed after a favourable opinion from vision and driving experts.
Diabetes Mellitus
It is proposed that the new rules will say that drivers experiencing recurrent sever hypoglycaemia should not be issued with a licence. This is more clear cut than the previous rules, particularly because of the clear definition of recurrent hypoglycaemia as being two episodes in 12 months.
The authorities will be required to interpret the standard more strictly and, in practice, this will prevent some applicants and existing drivers from holding a licence. However, the EU rules also allow a licence to be granted once control or awareness is re-established and the authorities propose to continue to do this.
It is proposed that drivers treated for diabetes, which carries a risk of hypoglycaemia (that is, with insulin and some tablets), may apply for entitlement to drive all Group 2 categories provided the following specific criteria are met:

  • There has been no severe hypoglycaemic event in the previous 12 months;
  • The driver has full hypoglycaemic awareness;
  • The driver must show adequate control of the condition by regular blood glucose monitoring, at least twice daily and at times relevant to driving;
  • The driver must demonstrate an understanding of the risks of hypoglycaemia; and,
  • There are no other debarring complications of diabetes.

For insulin treated diabetes the authorities suggest adopting this standard, subject to the opinion of an expert diabetologist. This would be required annually to support the consideration of relicensing.
A severe hypoglycaemic event during waking hours, even unrelated to driving, should be reported and should give rise to a reassessment of the licensing status.
Epilepsy
For Group 2 drivers, the new EU rules largely reflect existing UK rules. There are no proposed changes to the current UK standards.
The government proposes to require a 10 year seizure free period in all cases where there has been two or more seizures less than 10 years apart. This effectively means the UK will have a higher standard than the EU minimum but one which is the same as our existing standard.
Not all changes are to make the standards more stringent as some drivers, such as insulin-dependent drivers, could actually improve their chances of having a licence.
Drivers of HGVs who are treated with medication such as insulin can be considered under the new rules to driver larger HGVs over 7.5T providing that they meet certain conditions.  At present, they can only be considered to drive smaller vehicles.
Other changes to the standards for HGV drivers may mean that more people are able to drive them, as applicants will be allowed to take their test wearing glasses.

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