Do the authorities really care about public safety?


Following comments during her summing up at the recent Uber appeal Judge Emma Arbuthnot told a packed Number One Court at Westminster that this case was really about public safety. During the proceedings Uber London Ltd. (ULL) were asked by Transport for London’s (TfL) barrister Mr Chamberlain QC about applications for private hire driver licences.

These were carried out with the assistance of ULL. It was revealed during the cross-examination that thousands of medicals had been carried out by a company called Push Medicals. This is an online company where you can have your DVLA class two medical carried out on the internet and by post.

It was also bought to the attention of the court that these medical consultations were carried out via Skype. Applicants were sent an eyesight test chart in the post along with a tape measure. This was so the applicant could place the board at the correct distance and, rather incredibly, carry out their own sight test.
It was pointed out in court how farcical this procedure was. Even the Judge commented on the farcical nature of this kind of test saying ‘’well it’s pretty obvious that the applicant will take the card from the envelope and read it straight away’’.
According to evidence given by Tom Elvidge for ULL this was common practice at the time. A huge number of new PH applicants were tested for their fitness to hold a PH licence using these unsatisfactory and unsafe methods.

‘There are medical conditions that impact, or potentially impact, on safe control of a vehicle.’ DVLA

It was stated in the presence of Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the Chief Magistrate no less, that ULL have encouraged and assisted thousands of drivers in the avoidance of robust medical checks. Checks that DVLA require drivers of certain vehicles to undertake. DVLA require this to ensure public safety on our roads.

I’m sure the incident involving the Glasgow bin lorry driver that caused so much devastation in the recent past because he omitted to inform the authorities about his very serious medical condition has not been forgotten.

It is clearly obvious that there could be a huge number of drivers on our streets with poor eyesight, high blood pressure, heart conditions, to mention but a few. This has been known by the regulator Transport for London for a long time. Now it has been confirmed in open court in the presence of the Chief Magistrate Lady Emma Arbuthnot.

The whole episode clearly undermines the integrity of the DVLA class two medical examination.

This also brings into question the integrity of not only the regulator but also those at the top of our justice system.

I think at the very least the people of London, and elsewhere, have a right to expect this outrage to be corrected. The way to achieve this would be for all those drivers that submitted false or substandard medical forms when applying for their PH licence to be re-tested by a Doctor or Doctors nominated by TfL. This should be at the expense of ULL. Also, they should not be allowed to drive a PHV until they have proved their fitness to drive.

This would go some way towards restoring the credibility and integrity of these medical examinations that have been severely undermined by the actions of ULL, ignored by TfL and now it appears glossed over by our most senior magistrate.

Mick Bailey
chair RMT London taxi branch

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