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DVSA urged to introduce tougher driving test for seniors after fatality

A coroner has urged the DVSA to introduce a tougher driving test for older drivers following the death of a 61-year-old grandmother who was struck by an 88-year-old driver with ‘undiagnosed dementia.’ The accident reopens the debate about renewing the licences of drivers of a certain age…

Should we hand in our driving licences after we reach a certain age or should a tougher driving test be introduced for us once our faculties start to fail us? Following the death of Evelyn Fisher, 61, who was run over by William Sherlock, 88, after he mounted a busy shopping street pavement in Paignton, Devon, the ‘older driver’ debate has resurfaced.

If it’s being suggested that drivers of a certain age need to take a tougher driving test to test their abilities, surely it’s a sign that Britain needs to cap the age at which a motorist can renew their licence.

Understandably, this raises the issue of sacrificing an elderly driver’s independence, but surely their safety, the safety of other motorists and pedestrians has to come first, given that older people can potentially travel by bus.

Rules for elderly drivers need a rethink

At an inquest into Ms Fisher’s death, the coroner urged the Department for Transport (DfT) to tighten up the rules on elderly drivers and suggested that ‘regular mandatory testing of drivers aged over 80’ should be enforced.

Mr Sherlock avoided charges of causing death by dangerous driving after the case against him was dropped because he was deemed unfit to stand trial. However, the case has raised the issue of people ‘self-reporting’ medical issues to the DVSA, which experts say is policy that needs to be reviewed.

Mr Sherlock’s account of events that led to Ms Fisher’s death are described as confusing. He initially said that he was reaching for his car’s sun visor and aggravated an old injury in his arm. However, a doctor concluded that Mr Sherlock was in fact unaware of his actions at the time of the accident and gave a ‘confused account afterwards.’

A neurological expert has since confirmed that Mr Sherlock is in the early stages of dementia. Had it been diagnosed previously, he would have had to have his case assessed by the DVSA.

DVSA warned about dangers

Prior to the death of Ms Fisher, the DVSA had been issued a warning to crackdown on elderly drivers getting behind the wheel with ailments such as poor eyesight. In 2017, Doctor Elizabeth Carlyon urged the agency to conduct stricter medical assessments on OAPs following the death of 75-year-old Geoffrey Taylor.

She warned the DVSA: “In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken.”

Meanwhile, more than a quarter of a million people have now signed a petition demanding compulsory retests for elderly drivers.

What are your thoughts on the debate surrounding elderly drivers? Should they be forced to retake a driving test every year or should the driving licence age be capped? Contact us with your comments.

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