Family of Steve Clarehugh backs sight test campaign

Steve Clarehugh
Steve Clarehugh

The family of a Northumberland flying instructor, who was killed by a driver with poor eyesight, is supporting a call for motorists to face compulsory vision testing every 10 years.

John Rogerson was sentenced to 28 months’ imprisonment and disqualified from driving for six years and two months in March 2017, following the incident two miles south of Alnwick on December 9, 2015.

He had been travelling down from Scotland when he failed to spot the JCB being driven by 54-year-old Steve Clarehugh, from Bockenfield, near Felton, who was the chief flying instructor with Purple Aviation at Eshott Airfield.

Emergency services rushed to his aid, but the father-of-two was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

An investigation was launched by Northumbria Police’s Motor Patrols department, at which point Rogerson, who was driving an HGV, failed a mandatory eye test.

He later pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

Almost half, 44 per cent, of optometrists in the UK have seen a patient in the last month who continued to drive despite being told their vision is below the legal standard, a report by the Association of Optometrists (AOP) has revealed.

The findings come as the AOP launches a new campaign to highlight its call for a law change on vision requirements for motorists.

Sarah Clarehugh supports the view that every responsible driver should consider their eyesight when assessing their ability to drive safely.

She said: “In a blink of an eye, my father was killed. You don’t have to be speeding, but if you can’t see, you can’t see – the laws are there for a reason.

“You don’t want that on your conscience.”

Ms Clarehugh, who had given birth to her daughter nine weeks before the incident happened, says one of the hardest things is that her father missed out on being a grandfather.

She added: “To say our lives have been devastated by his death is an understatement.

“When our father died, part of us died. He was looking forward to becoming a grandfather and had a bright future, but now it’s gone.

“I’ll have to tell my little girl what happened when she gets older. We’re trying to live our dad’s legacy, but there’s part of us missing.”

Under existing UK law, drivers must undergo an initial number plate test when taking a driving test, then complete a self-declaration for renewing their licence thereafter.

This means that a 17-year-old who can read a number plate from 20 metres away when they take their test may continue to drive with no further checks for the rest of their life.

The AOP says these laws are among the laxest in Europe and it is calling for a change to the law that would require drivers to have a vision check to prove their sight meets the legal standard when they first apply for the licence and then every 10 years thereafter, or more frequently after the age of 70.

The Don’t swerve a sight test campaign also reminds drivers that undergoing a sight test every two years is currently the best way to maximise their eye health and make sure they are road safe.

For more details, go to www.aop.org.uk/dontswerve