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Driver killed motorcyclist after licence renewed in Devon

Jerry Daniell (pictured) was riding his bike ‘properly and correctly’ when he was crashed into by William Searle

A pensioner who was allowed to renew his driving licence after passing an eye test went on to kill a motorcyclist two weeks later, a court has heard.

William Searle, 73, had his sight tested by a high street opticians and was handed back his licence by the DVLA as a result, Exeter Crown Court heard.

However Mr Searle would crash into Jerry Daniell after pulling out at a service station, leaving the 52-year-old with fatal head injuries.

Police officers who tested Mr Searle’s sight in the days after the fatal crash found that he could not read a number plate from 65 feet away.

Prosecutor Bathsheba Cassell said: ‘He was unable to correctly read a number plate from 65 feet on three separate occasions.’

A jury heard that Mr Daniell was riding his bike ‘properly and correctly’ along Shaldon Road near Newton Abbot, Devon, on September 22 last year.

A red Mercedes Benz saloon driven by Searle pulled out in a right turn from a service station into the path of Mr Daniell.

The biker struck the car’s door and he was catapulted into the air and landed on his head in the road. He died the next morning in hospital.

Forensic collision investigator John Hitchcock said the Yamaha bike would have been in view for 300 feet and the rider would have been visible for between five and twelve seconds.

Miss Cassell said: ‘The prosecution say a careful and competent driver would have seen Mr Daniell as he proceeded along the road.

Rules for older drivers

Once you turn 70, you must renew your driving licence with the DVLA every three years. 

It’s free to get a new licence online, and you can drive while it’s being processed as long as you have the support of your doctor and your licence was not revoked for medical reasons. 

Drivers over 70 must then pass an eye test, proving they can read a car number plate made after September 1, 2001 from 20 metres (65 feet).

They must also have an adequate field of vision and at least a 6/12 visual acuity (ie, clarity) measured using an eye chart.

It is also acceptable if the driver can only pass the test using glasses or contact lenses, or if the driver uses only one eye (if they have sight in only one).  

‘The defendant did not and caused Mr Daniell’s death.’

Searle, of Haccombe, Devon, said he looked left, right and left again before he pulled out of the service station.

He told police ‘as far as he was concerned his eyesight was good’, said Mr Cassell.

Exeter Crown Court heard Searle has ‘significant medical conditions’ but they did not contribute to the crash. 

The jury heard Searle had an eye test on September 8 and the DVLA renewed his licence ‘on the basis of that result’.

As he is aged over 70, the DVLA is entitled to ask any licence holder wishing to renew to first provide proof that they have passed a sight exam. 

Miss Cassell said eye experts ‘are in broad agreement that he had some eye sight defects which would have contributed to the collision’.

Miss Cassell asked the jury to consider whether Searle ‘turned a blind eye’ to his sight defects. 

Searle denies causing the death of Mr Daniell by careless driving and his trial continues.

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