(QldGovSpin) Eye Test issue under review

Submitted by Editor on Thu, 09/09/2004 - 23:16

(QldGovSpin) Eye Test issue under review
Minister for Transport Paul Lucas has today asked Queensland Transport to review the issue of eyesight testing for Queensland drivers who are under 75 years of age.

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Transport & Main Roads, Paul Lucas
transport@cabinet.qld.gov.au
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09/09/04

"Queensland Transport has not conducted the basic eyesight test for drivers aged under 75 since December 2001," Mr Lucas said.

"I don't want to be dogmatic about these things so I am happy for my department to revisit the issue, talk to stakeholders and have a public debate so that the community has maximum support for our licensing system."

Mr Lucas said the eye chart only tested a person's visual acuity or clarity of vision when looking straight ahead. It did not uncover colour blindness, night vision, hazard and depth perception or peripheral vision problems, which can be caused by several conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts.

"While a number of States test at initial application, NSW is the only State that conducts eye tests on renewals," he said.

Mr Lucas said the number of fatal accidents caused by medical conditions in Queensland had declined since 2001. The most common conditions were heart attacks and seizures.

"In 2001 there were about 3% or 9 fatal crashes and last year it had reduced to 0.7% or 4 fatal crashes," he said.

"Compare that to the big contributing factors to fatal accidents - alcohol and drugs 38% or 107 accidents, disobeying road rules 29% or 83 accidents and speed at 15% or 45 fatal accidents.

"I welcome public debate on this. It should not just focus on a person's eyesight, but the broader issue of a person's state of health and therefore ability to drive safely.

"Such debate could see some people wanting to go down the path of mandatory medical tests for all drivers. No other States are doing this."

Mr Lucas said this would mean people would have to pay about $60 or $70 for a medical and then present a medical certificate saying they were fit to drive.

"People wouldn't be able to claim that back on Medicare. Such a system could give rise to problem of people shopping around from one doctor to another to get a medical certificate," he said.

Mr Lucas said the basic eye test was extremely limited in the information it provided about someone's eyesight.

"In some circumstances, it could give a motorist a false sense of comfort that their sight is appropriate for driving even though they have other visual problems that the test won't pick up," he said.

"No system, not even having a doctor sit at the counter in our testing centres, can replace the personal responsibility drivers have to ensure their eyesight and health allows them to be fit to drive during the full five years of their licence."

Mr Lucas said medical fitness to drive, including eyesight, was based on a national standard and was used by doctors when doing medical assessments.

Queensland Transport does still conduct the basic eyesight tests if an applicant:

* Declares a vision or eye disorder on their driver licence form (eg needs to wear glasses or contact lenses to drive)

* Declares vision is lost in one eye

* Produces a medical certificate with an eyesight test that doesn't meet the minimum national standard

Queenslanders age 75 and over are required to have a medical certificate to obtain a licence and carry that with them when driving. An eye test is mandatory under the medical test they are required to undergo.

Mr Lucas said about 460 drivers voluntarily surrender their licences, and a further 40 were cancelled, on medical grounds each year.

Media Contact:
Sonya Gillece 3237 1947 / 0407 166 084

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