When should old people stop driving?
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I am setting up this petition because of my recently increased concern over the ability of old people to continue driving despite reduced cognition, eyesight, hearing and reaction times.
My father is now 94 and has been widowed for 10 years. About 4 years ago my sisters and I became concerned at his ability to drive and had frequent conversations, encouraging him to stop driving. He would laugh this off and say that he would think about it in 'two years time'. That two years time always remained two years into the future and anyway, he would say, he had a friend who was a much worse driver than him.
About two years ago we opened a taxi account for my Father and took his keys away. We got many complaints but he got used to it.
Last Tuesday, my Father was the passenger in that 87 year old Friend’s car as they were driving a short distance from his home to a meeting. The picture shows what happened when that friend, whose wife had been going on at him ‘for years’ to give up driving, turned across the road, straight in front of a motorcyclist
My Father is physically OK. Mentally he is showing no awareness of the scale of the accident, with his dementia clouding the reality. All he has said is that ‘there was a little bit of bother with a cyclist.' If that motorcyclist had been going a couple of miles an hour slower, my Father in the front passenger seat would have been no more.
His friend, the driver, has been released from hospital.
The real tragedy in this is that the motorcyclist ‘a man in his 60’s from Bournemouth’ who was innocently and legally driving along a road in perfect conditions, did not survive a car driving into him at a combined speed of probably 50mph, nor the landing after being thrown 50m through the air. Somewhere there are people grieving for the loss of a Husband, Partner, Son, Brother, Cousin, Uncle, Grandfather, Friend. That loss will change their lives for ever.
According to the DVLA there are now well in excess of 4.5m drivers over the age of 70 and 1.2m over the age of 80. Hampshire is second only to Greater London for the number of drivers over the age of 80, with just over 50,000 drivers. The demographic changes will significantly increase these numbers.
In the UK at the age of 70, drivers have to self certify that they are capable of driving every 3 years. The only people that have the power to stop an elderly person driving are the Courts or a Doctor. Worried relatives can anonymously contact the DVLA, and about 127,000 a year do. The driver will then get a letter asking them to go to their GP to get a form signed that they are still capable of driving. How can a busy GP possibly take an informed decision on this?
My view is that this is not good enough. There should be a compulsory retesting of drivers at the age of 80 and thereafter at 3 to 5 year intervals to ensure they are fit to drive. We must try and reduce the numbers of people killed or injured by people that are no longer capable of driving safely. We have the infrastructure to do this, the driving test centres are showing a decline in numbers of c.20% taking their tests so there is plenty of capacity to cope with retests of older drivers.
Who do you know that is no longer safe to drive? Please sign this petition and pass it on to your contacts. It may save a life.
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