Call to test older drivers for dementia

Call to test older drivers for dementia

Coroner says mandatory testing needed for those over 80

A CORONER has called for older motorists to be checked routinely for signs of dementia after a woman was killed by an 88-year-old driver on a busy street.

Evelyn Fisher, 61, was on her way to work when she was hit by a car driven by William Sherlock, now 90. She died in hospital the next day.

Deborah Archer, the assistant coroner for Plymouth and south Devon, said she would write to the Department of Transport to urge checks on older drivers after hearing that Mr Sherlock was showing early signs of dementia.

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Charges of causing death by dangerous driving were dropped when he was deemed unfit to stand trial. He voluntarily surrendered his driving licence.

Ms Archer will call for a review of the policy of “self-reporting” medical issues to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). In a letter to the government she said there should be mandatory testing of drivers aged 80 and older. “It is the best I can do to try to make sure some good comes out of this terrible incident,” she said.

Mr Sherlock’s car mounted the pavement in Paignton, Devon, last April, hitting Ms Fisher and causing “catastrophic” head injuries. Had his dementia been diagnosed, Mr Sherlock would have had to have his fitness to drive assessed by the DVLA in order to retain his licence, the coroner said.

Three medical experts concluded that Mr Sherlock was not fit to face trial. Howard Faulkner said that he had suffered “vacant episodes” and “partial seizures” before the crash. In a report read to the inquest he wrote: “He had never been advised to stop driving but in my opinion he was in the early stages of undiagnosed dementia at the time. Dementia increases the risk of accidents due to poor judgment.”

He said tests showed that Mr Sherlock had not suffered any “medical episode” at the time and that in his opinion Mr Sherlock was not aware of his actions.

PC Simon Bishop said Mr Sherlock had overtaken a cyclist and been distracted. He said the car mounted the pavement doing 22mph and Ms Fisher did not have time to get out of the way.

Mr Sherlock said at the time that he had reached up to the car’s sun visor, aggravating an injury in his arm.

Andrea Vella, Ms Fisher’s daughter, said she had been left “empty and heartbroken” by her mother’s death.

Simon de Bruxelles

This article first appeared in The Times

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