Keeping Your Eyes on the Road

According to a BBC News report published yesterday, Thames Valley, Hampshire and West Midlands police forces are intending on testing the eyesight of every motorist they stop to ensure that drivers meet the minimum eyesight standards. Officers will be able to request the urgent revocation of a licence by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if they deem that the safety of other road users will be put at risk if a driver remains on the road.

The article, quite rightly, sets out the important policy decisions behind the initiative and also states the process of reapplying for a driving licence at the end of a disqualification period. However, the article doesn’t specify what routes of challenge are available to motorists who dispute the decision of the Police or DVLA, should a decision be made to revoke a driving licence on these grounds.

So what should you do if you receive a letter from the DVLA which says that your licence has been revoked due to defective eyesight or a medical condition?

Firstly, carefully read the letter and check that it specifies the reasons for the decision and also sets out the requirements needed to be met and/or the period of disqualification that must lapse before you will be able to apply for a new licence.

If you want to challenge the decision, you may be able to request that the DVLA review their position and/or lodge an appeal with the Magistrates’ Court.

DVLA Review

The DVLA’s letter should also specify that there is an ability to request that the DVLA reconsider their position, for example if there is evidence or information available that was not originally considered by the DVLA.

Submitting well-reasoned and persuasive written representations, together with the necessary evidence in support, can be very effective and should be given serious consideration before exercising the second right of challenge, which is a formal appeal to the Magistrates’ Court. The process of liaising and, where necessary, obtaining documentation from the DVLA can be slow going (in truth, they are the epitome of “snail mail”) so it is important to obtain specialist legal advice early.

Magistrates’ Court Appeal

An appeal to the Magistrates’ Court should be lodged within 6 months of the DVLA’s decision and involves the Court reviewing the decision of the DVLA. The Court is permitted to rehear all the evidence and issues, but importantly it can also consider anything new that is obtained. The ‘burden of proof’ is on the DVLA and they must satisfy the Court that its decision was correct.

The appeal process is not without its perils, as it is not uncommon for an unsuccessful appellant to have to pay the DVLA’s costs in defending the appeal, and therefore a decision to commence an appeal should not be made rashly. In some circumstances, withdrawing an appeal before the hearing can still result in liability for the DVLA’s costs, and therefore it is highly advisable that specialist advice is taken.

Our motoring and transport solicitors have vast experience in advising in this area of law and understand fully how important and fundamental a driving licence can be to an individual’s life. If you have received a letter from the DVLA and are unsure about your options, seeking early advice is vital to be able to place yourself in the best possible position. Should you require assistance or information in relation to this, or any other area of motoring/transport law, do not hesitate to contact a member of the Transport team on 01908 202150 or 01223 411421.

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