Elderly Driver With Dementia Kills Biker
A judge has warned about the rising threat of dangerous elderly drivers after an 89-year-old motorist with dementia was blamed for a crash in which a motorcyclist died. Retired farmer Albert Bradley had ignored pleas from his family to stop driving amid concerns of his poor health, Hull Crown Court was told.
Their fears were realised when he collided with motorcyclist Brian Emmerson, 44, who died a month later from his injuries. But after admitting careless driving, Bradley, now 90 and suffering from a “dementing condition”, escaped with a £500 fine and a 10-year driving ban.
Judge Michael Mettyear, the Recorder of Hull, said the law – which allows drivers over 70 to declare themselves fit to continue motoring – should be reviewed and warned of more such tragedies in future.
He said: “There are going to be more and more cases of very old people driving cars, sometimes having accidents and sometimes killing people. There ought to be some level of public debate as to whether the system gives safeguards to protect the innocent. I invite others more knowledgable to discuss where something needs to be done.”
The judge said there was “overwhelming” evidence that the accident last June was Bradley’s fault. Adding: “The sympathy of the court in this case is directed entirely to the unfortunate family and the wife of Mr Emmerson.”
Mark Bury, prosecuting, said Bradley’s Peugeot 306 collided with Mr Emmerson when he was stood astride his 750cc Honda bike and waiting for red traffic lights to change. “Albert Bradley drove up behind him,” said Mr Bury. “For some reason Mr Bradley failed to notice the lights were on red. He also failed to notice the motorcyclist and collided with him.”
Mr Emmerson, a computer engineer, suffered a broken ankle and appeared to recover, but he died when a blood clot in his leg, said to be related to the accident, moved to his brain.
The court heard Bradley told police in interview the motorcyclist collided with him and not the other way round. The pensioner had never had a speeding or parking ticket during 50 years motoring, but his family were concerned about him driving.
Eric Elliot, QC, defending, said: “The family may well have been worried for a little while, but it is difficult to convince the elderly.” Bradley was remorseful and suffering depression, he said.
Outside court the victim’s wife Kathy Emmerson, 48, a library assistant from Bridlington, slammed the sentence and current licence rules. She said: “There should be mandatory tests for people at the age of 60 to ensure they are fit to drive.” Commenting on Bradley, she added: “That man has ruined our lives. He has shown no remorse whatsoever and that is the punishment he gets. He got off on medical grounds, but I don’t think he’s as ill as he makes out. He caused Brian’s death and I can never forgive him.”
The DVLA is carrying out a review into the medical standards required for safe driving. Under current rules a driving licence must be renewed at 70 and every three years after that. This is a form-filling process and elderly motorists do not have to retake a test or be declared fit by a doctor. All motorists must declare any medical condition that may affect their fitness to be behind the wheel.
A spokesman for the Automobile Association said “outdated” laws needed to be reviewed, but age was not necessarily a deciding factor. “It’s very hard to show that elderly drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident than other drivers. It’s a slight upcurve from middle age, but they are probably not as bad as 25-year-olds and definitely not as bad as 17-year-olds. They are more likely to be injured in an accident, but that’s because they are more frail.”
A spokesman for Help The Aged said: “Good driving is a matter of courtesy, not age. When a younger driver is found guilty of careless driving you don’t get such an outcry and I suspect older drivers are being singled out for their age rather than their competency. We support non-discriminatory good practice and we encourage older drivers to take refresher courses in conjunction with the DVLA. For many older drivers their car is a lifeline.”