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DVLA nightmare in lockdown


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I had a minor stroke in November 2019 which resulted in a small visual defect in the lower right hand quadrant of my right eye. there were no other consequences fortunately. I didn't drive for the mandatory 6 weeks and was signed off by the stroke consultant who had put me on to anticoagulants, at the same time. I reported the situation to the DVLA who sent me for a visual field test at Specsavers at the end of January. I was a little nervous doing the test, but when I asked the technician at the end how I had done, all she would say "as we expected". I took this (wrongly) to be reassuring.


I was then very shocked afterwards to receive the letter from the DVLA advising me that I had failed to meet the required standards and my licence was revoked. No detail was given of exactly how i had failed the test. I immediately arranged a visual field test with my own optician which showed some vision loss in the lower right hand quadrant as expected, but full vision elsewhere, as well as in the centre of my field of vision. 


I then wrote in mid February to the DVLA enclosing my field test copy and asking what precisely was the reason for my failure. On 10th March I received their reply which stated they had reviewed the new evidence i had provided (!) and I was now free to apply for my licence. I replied by return of post enclosing a full licence application.

Then lockdown happened, the DVLA went into hibernation and were effectively cut-off to the world with their incoming phonelines barred. My attempts to find out what was happening were fruitless. 


On July 1st (14 weeks later) the DVLA replied saying that they had made a mistake, I wasn't free to reapply for my licence, contrary to what they advised,  and they returned my cancelled licence application!!!. They did state this time that I had failed the test because of too many false positive errors (>20%) and had the grace to enclose a copy of the original Specsavers test.


I immediately replied with the copy of a second private field test with a low number of false positives. A further 7 weeks later the DVLA replied saying this test failed, but again without giving any detail of the reason.


I have now had another field test done at my optician, now they are open again, and fortunately this now shows that my visual defect has improved over time. i have just submitted this new test to the DVLA with (foolish) new hope in my heart.


Of course the pandemic has slowed all bureaucratic processes down, but the DVLA seem to have used the opportunity to become even less helpful. Furthermore their failure/reluctance to clarify the details of the reasons for failing my test each time have slowed me down and frustrated me in equal measure.  Never mind the fact that they made a mistake and added 4 months delay to the already unsatisfactory process.


In 6 weeks time it will be the anniversary of my stroke. My condition is stable and has improved over time. I have good vision in both eyes and no physical impairment. So it seems to me that the "exceptional case application" route might prove more successful than the unsuccessful dialogue I am engaged in. I phoned up the DVLA to discuss this option and enquire whether I can submit an application now in advance of the anniversary, in light of the current delay situation. The advisor told me that I had to wait until November and in any case I should submit the new evidence now.


I would welcome any comments or advice that people have please!

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Hi John, sorry to hear about your problems but good news that you're recovering well. My own experience getting back my licence after voluntarily handing it in was a bit similar with delays and excuses. I think that in the main DLVA use external medical consultants and these meet only sporadically so decisions are a long time coming.


I was relatively lucky only waiting for 3 months after re-applying for return of the licence and at the time I was getting quite annoyed. Looking back, I now believe that they were right to keep me waiting as although I don't think my driving is impaired, I found I tired very quickly and had to take more stops than before.


Although it might seem harsh and frustrating now, in a few months time you might well reflect that it's not so bad after all.

Good Luck with your negotiations


John (another one...)

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Sorry to hear of the trauma's you have been experiencing with the DVLA. It is not a surprise though as you will realise that the Covid pandemic has caused all sorts of problems. 


My understanding is that under the 'exceptional case' rules, you can get your licence back if you can show (by obtaining an Esterman Test - which you had at Specsavers) that your vision has improved and is no longer an issue. I imagine that if you have such evidence you should submit it now (as they say). It will still take some time for them to review it and get back to you but at least it will show them that your vision has improved. Whether or not it has improved enough, only DVLA can say. Their system, their rules I'm afraid.


I posted much information about this in the thread here called 'Quadrantanopia' (which, it seems, is what you are suffering from - as was I). I feel that reading this and looking at my posts where I attached copies of letters and Esterman test results, could inform you a great deal more than trying to deal with the DVLA on the phone. 


If, eventually, DVLA decide that you must apply via the exceptional case rules then all the information is there and you should receive a letter much like the one I got in 2016. Since you are almost at the end of the year since you had your stroke (you need to go a full year without another 'event' to reapply, as well as jumping through other hoops - all detailed in the DVLA letter) it seems to me that you are within reach of making a reapplication anyway.


Having said that, if the new tests show that you don't pass muster then the exceptional rule route requires you to have tests with opthalmic optician (of DVLA choice - local to you) and obtain reports etc about your eyesight and ability to cope without full vision. If it gets to that point we can obviously help guide you through it. 


Finally, I think that unless you are back to normal vision, the DVLA may well ask you to take a driving assessment. It is not like the original test that you took and involves more tests than just being on the road. Again, if this is the case, let us know and we can assist.


Good luck and keep spirits up. You will get your licence back but it will take time.



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  • 2 months later...

My frustrations with the DVLA continue... I submitted a new (private) field test in mid-September to the DVLA which looked a lot better than the earlier ones. 2 weeks later I received a reply "thank you for your correspondence .... However our records show that your driving licence is not valid (???).  Please fill in the enclosed forms ..."  


There was no acknowledgement or comment about the newly supplied test, so presumably this was just a template reply. Not clear. I phoned up asking if this meant that the new test results had been satisfactory and was told "yes" and therefore I could reapply for my licence. I immediately sent off the medical questionnaire form they had provided, with hope in my heart.  It seems that my driving licence had run out during the period of the revocation.


Two weeks later I received another letter "thank you for the medical questionnaire .... However our records show that your driving licence is not valid.  Please fill in the enclosed forms ..."   Deja vu!   They provided me with the licence application form (which had not been contained in the previous letter) which I duly returned.


A month passed with no response and so I phoned up today to be told now that they now want me to do a hospital Goldman test!!!  Of course under the current circumstances nobody can say how long that will take, so I am back in limbo after a long drawn-out series of conflicting and unclear messages from the DVLA which started in February. I can't tell you how frustrated I am.   Is the Goldman test just another brand of visual field test - does anyone have any experience please?


Sorry to unburden!

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According to Google it is another version of a visual field test

Quote from Google

"The Goldman is an old fashioned manually operated test often used for disability exams and sometimes for neuro-ophthalmology exams."


This may be more helpful although it is from the States.

Find Goldmann Visual Field / Kinetic Perimetry Tests (ophthalmologyweb.com)


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What a nightmare for you. I was sorry to read all that. I looked up the Goldman test and it is done to establish your peripheral vision. I did a similar thing at my driving assessment and it was very much focussed on reaction times. I sat in a test bed that was like sitting in a car drivers seat, with a matrix of lights in front of me.


The idea was to press the brake as soon as possible when you see a red light. It means you need to move your head around. However, the Goldman test may well involve fixing your gaze on one spot and seeing how much you can see with the peripheral vision (similar to the Esterman Test you did at Specsavers.


So in summary, I don't really know but google helped a little bit! Good luck and let us know how things turn out. It would be good to have your summary of what a Goldman test is too!

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  • 2 months later...

Late November the DVLA formally advised me that I needed to carry our a Goldman test at an approved optician, but no date for this could be arranged yet because of Covid pressures!!.   Early December 2020, after appealing to the DVLA on compassionate grounds they relented and gave me the details to arrange a test. I was given a date in mid February at a Hospital (only one test a week because of Covid). i accepted this but said I would take any cancellation - and subsequently was given a date early January.


For the the Goldman perimetry test, you sit in front of a large white dish with the head in a fixed position. The optician sits behind the dish and manipulates a bright light which can appear anywhere in the dish and also comes in from the perimeter to the centre. You have to indicate whenever you see a light. By doing this the optician is able to plot and record the extent and limitations of your field of vision.


If you are nervous and give a false reaction you can advise the optician and he will ignore the false reading. So this test is much more relaxed than the automated Esterman test we have all experienced.  Apparently there are only a few old Goldman machines in operation now but they are seen as the gold-standard test.


The optician then went through the results with me, but said that he was unable to advise whether I satisfied the DVLA conditions or not, as they never tell him the outcome of any of the tests he submits to them!!  To my untrained eye I look to be be borderline OK. A clear 40 degrees in the centre and no defect on the horizontal centre line. Just some loss of vision in the lower right quadrant.


A month has passed since the test results were sent to the DVLA, but when I got through last week no one had looked at them yet!!!  The ordeal continues.



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It seems that progress is being made and from prima facie evidence (albeit verbal) you seem to have quite good results. I'm afraid that you are experiencing the sort of delays we all experience with the DVLA so there's no surprises there.


They aren’t picking on you, it is merely the way things are there, compounded by the Covid shambles of course! Expect to wait for some time but don't be afraid to call every other day just to find out how the review is going.


I had, eventually, to make a formal complaint as I was told I was a priority case yet heard nothing for weeks. The complaint will take around three weeks for them to deal with but once it has been received (don't rant in your letter, just put the facts down) then you will have a case officer and a case reference so that you can push forward. 


I am keeping my fingers crossed that the test results with prove favourable and that you will either get your licence back or get sent for a driving assessment.


Good luck

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  • 6 months later...

Seven months from my last post I am still in DVLA limbo. The DVLA had the results of my Goldman test for nearly 4 months before anyone looked at it. Then they could not make their minds up and continued to ask for more information.


However in the meantime in March I had had an encouraging review at the local hospital ophthalmology department which I shared with the DVLA. They then asked for more information from my ophthalmologist who did a full set of tests in July and he ultimately recommended that I be approved under the exceptional case criteria as my visual defect is a close fail.


This has now been accepted by the DVLA and they have notified me of such. This was a month ago but I am now still awaiting details of how and when I should carry out the necessary driving assessment - so there is some movement tantalizingly but still no clarity in terms of timescales.


However I did send in a formal complaint to the DVLA and this seemed to have some effect and some acknowledgement of their mistakes and missteps, and at least I had a clearer dialogue as to what was happening which I could not get from the call-centre staff.


I compare and contrast this with the situation in France. We are hoping to go off to France soon and I applied online to the French authorities for a car emissions certificate. This was processed and completed within 24 hours!!


This process has now lasted 18 months already but possibly an end may be in sight!!  Fingers crossed!

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  • 4 months later...

At long last I am able to report success!  23 months after my licence was revoked, a new one arrived in the post today. Having advised me in July 2021 that I met the exceptional case criteria, subject to a driving assessment to assess my adaptation to my medical condition (minor visual defect), It took 5 months to supply me with the Provisional Disability Assessment Licence.  


It took me a week to arrange driving lessons and the assessment at the RDAC centre in late November. The assessment took a good hour and was pretty rigorous, Cognitive tests and interview from a occupational therapist and an hours driving assessment in an unfamiliar dual-control vehicle over unfamiliar roads and varied conditions, supervised by the driving  assessor and the therapist. 


I felt it went very well, but of course the DVLA in their wisdom (or paranoia) do not permit the assessors to give one any form  of feedback.


However, under the freedom of information act, the DVLA (via their subject access request procedure) are required to give me a copy of any information they hold on me that I request. I received the 8 page copy of the driving assessment report just before Christmas and it was encouragingly faultless. So today 6 weeks after the assessment my new licence arrived.


This has been a long and frustrating journey and it reflects very poorly on the DVLA Medical Group and their organisation. I wish there were some lessons from this that I could pass on to others that would work for others.


All i can say is don't give up, don't hesitate to complain through the formal DVLA channels - they never respond in the promised timescales but you learn more about the status of your case than you would learn directly via letter from the DVLA or their telephone agents.


They never explain or give advice so you have to believe in the merits of your case and persist. I believe the DVLA have deprived me of some quality of life for a good 12-18 months through their bureaucracy and inefficiency and delayed my return to driving by some 12 months.  This experience does not reflect well on the DVLA

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