Epsom woman hit by pensioner calls for over-70 driving tests
4:57pm Tuesday 24th April 2012 in News
A woman who was knocked down by a 87-year-old man in a car park has called for all elderly people to have to resit their driving test.
Helen Harrington was hurled through the air by a silver Ford Fusion car being driven by Richard Bradley, outside Old Cottage Hospital in Alexandra Road, Epsom, in January last year.
The 46-year-old MS sufferer, of Redwood Drive, Epsom, had to have four stitches to her right shin and sustained severe bruising on her legs and ankles.
Bradley was found guilty of driving without due care and attention at South East Surrey Magistrates' Court last Wednesday (April 11) and was given six points on his driving licence, a £550 fine and ordered to pay court costs of £700.
But magistrates did not remove his license nor order him to take another driving test to check his competence to remain on the road.
Mrs Harrington has described the decision to allow him to remain behind the wheel as "a time bomb waiting to go off".
She has signed up to Cassie’s Law, a petition to the Government launched after the death of Cassie McCord, 16, killed by an 87-year-old driver in Colchester in February.
The driver had been warned three days earlier not to drive by police after he was involved in a minor accident, failed an eye test and had to be driven home.
The campaign aims to give police officers the power to immediately suspend licences. Figures published by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) in January showed that people aged 80 are almost twice as likely as the average driver to be killed or seriously injured on the roads.
A spokeswoman for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said insurance premiums start climbing once drivers reach 75 because of the increasing risk from deteriorating eyesight, using the car less and slower reactions.
Mrs Harrington said: "Mr Bradley reversed out of a parking space but instead of braking he accelerated forward and hit me and part of another car parked in the next space. I was thrown into the air and landed on my head.
"My husband said I looked like a rag doll, flying through the air. The next thing I knew, I was lying on my back, looking up at the sky, screaming.
"I had just been diagnosed with MS and then thought I was going to die because of a crash.
"My lack of injuries went against me in court, but psychologically it obviously affected me."
Mrs Harrington said she believes Bradley’s age was a key factor in the accident occurring.
She said: "He admitted he didn’t even see me. He can continue on the roads with only six points on his driving licence and I am scared that he is a time bomb waiting to go off. Somebody could die.
"He should have been banned or the court should have some powers to make his re-take his driving test. Something has to be done to check that people are still fit to drive when they get older.
"I am not being ageist, it’s natural that faculties start to go and your reaction time gets slower.
"When you’re 70 you must renew your licence but you have to fill the forms in yourself and if you don’t want to lose your licence, or aren’t aware that you faculties are not what they used to be, your licence will be renewed."
But questioned about this after the court case Bradley said: "Mrs Harrington is entitled to her opinion and I am entitled to mine.
"I do not agree with her, I am disappointed with the result of the case and do not feel that I have got off lightly. But I do not wish to comment about this any further."
Mrs Harrington’s husband Ian, 49, who witnessed the accident, said Bradley should be assessed for his fitness to drive.
He said: "The DVLA’s regulations place the onus on the licence owner to decide when to stop driving, but is this right? It should not be voluntary.
"This man should be assessed and if an assessment was to come back showing he was fit to drive then that’s fine."
A DVLA spokesman said: "All drivers have an obligation to make sure that they are medically fit to drive.
"There are also special arrangements established with medical professionals and the police to allow them to notify DVLA directly about diagnosed or suspected health problems.
"Failure to inform the DVLA of a medical condition is a criminal offence carrying a maximum penalty of £1,000."
Peter Rodger, head of driving standards at the IAM, said people over the age of 70 are statistically the safest group of drivers and compulsory testing would not be cost-effective.
He said: ""We do not support compulsory testing. But we do support putting things in place which support drivers so they can make more informed decisions about their driving as they get older."
The institute runs assessments which allows people over the age of 55 to check how their driving skills are holding up.
A spokeswoman for Age UK Surrey said: "We firmly believe that ability and safety, not age, should always determine if someone should be allowed to continue driving.
For many people older people, particularly those living in more rural areas, driving is a way of maintaining independence so it is really important that they should not be prevented from driving, on the arbitrary basis of ‘birth-date’ alone, particularly when people’s fitness and health varies so dramatically.
Age UK Surrey also believes that older people should be given support and information to assess whether they are fit and safe enough to continue driving and provided with additional training and information about car adaptations which could make driving easier and safer."