Rebecca has campaigned on the issue of medical fitness to drive ever since hearing the heartbreaking story of one of her constituents, Reverend Brenda Gutberlet. Revd Gutberlet lost her niece, Natalie Wade, in a tragic car accident in 2006. Natalie was killed while on the way to buy her wedding dress by a driver who had been told by medical professionals that his eyesight was far too poor to continue driving.
Rebecca and Reverend Gutberlet have been campaigning to get drivers who are knowingly medically unfit off the roads to prevent a similar tragedy happening to any other family.
- As part of the campaign, in 2013 Rebecca hosted the RSA Insurance Group’s ‘Fit to Drive’ road safety and eye health drop-in eye test event in Parliament. Supported by road safety charity Brake and the Optical Confederation and held during National Road Safety Week, the event saw MPs from all political parties tested to see whether they meet the UK’s minimum eye health standards.
- This year, Rebecca hosted a Parliamentary roundtable, in association with the RSA insurance group, to discuss the concerns associated with such ensuring more people have regular eye tests and that ultimately if prescription glasses aren't enough, optical or medical practitioners refer patients deemed to have defective eyesight to the DVLA. The roundtable brought together experts from the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Optical Confederation, the police and road safety campaigners. The aim was to discuss how GPs can ensure that their patients are fit to drive and to see whether updates are needed to the official guidance on how they report poor eyesight to the DVLA.
- Research shows that poor vision results in nearly 3,000 casualties in the UK each year, and Rebecca's campaign is hoping to raise awareness of drivers' responsibilty behind the wheel to prevent other families suffering the same tragedy that Revd Brenda Gutberlet and her family suffered with Natalie's tragic loss.
In January this year, Rebecca was pleased to be able to arrange for Revd Brenda Gutberlet to meet with the Secretary of State for Transport, The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin.
· The meeting went well and Brenda was able to put all her points across to Mr McLoughlin, who was very keen to hear how she thought the law could be changed. Brenda particularly raised the important point that currently it is up to the driver to report changes in their medical condition, like deteriorating eyesight, to the DVLA through an 'honesty declaration', but not their doctors or optometrists. Rebecca and Brenda also pointed out that the Road Traffic Act has not been updated since 1988 and the current practical visual test for drivers of reading a number plate from 20m has not changed since it was introduced in 1937!
Rebecca Harris said:
“I will continue to support Brenda in her campaign because it is vital that we stop drivers who are not medically fit to drive from getting behind the wheel, so we can prevent other families suffering the same tragedy as Natalie’s.”