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Doctors Should be Obliged to Tell The DVLA When Patients Are no Longer Safe Drivers

A medical expert and barrister has called for a law that would see compulsory disclosure extended to patients deemed unfit to drive.

In comparison to the UK, other areas of the EU require motorists to undergo mandatory tests with an ophthalmologist and a medical examination by their GP before being declared fit to drive.

Daniel Sokol’s call follows a case involving a three-year-old who was killed, in a fatal road traffic accident. John Place, 72, admitted causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving. Mr Place had ignored an optician’s warning not to get behind the wheel, and was not even wearing his glasses at the time of the accident when he ran a red light, hitting the child and mother.

UK drivers are currently obliged by law to renew their licence once they reach the age of 70 and every three years thereafter.

Statistics from the DVLA show that elderly drivers represent 10 per cent of UK licence holders, yet are involved in only six per cent of accidents. In June, 2016, the question of whether the law ought to be reviewed came to light following the tragic case of Norma Jones, who described herself as ‘confused and befuddled’ when she drove into eight schoolgirls, leaving one with brain damage. Whereas this incident was not representative of all elderly drivers, the question remains whether the law may intervene where unsafe road users continue to get behind the wheel.

Writing in the BMJ, Mr Sokol said it was crucial that doctors be forced to warn when patients were no longer fit for the roads. He said: “Motor vehicles are lethal objects. They maim and kill innocent people just as efficiently as infectious diseases or terrorist attacks.

“Yet doctors in the public interest are required by law to report patients who have certain infectious diseases or who may commit terrorist acts—but not patients who may cause serious harm through their unfitness to drive."

“Logic calls for the law of disclosure to extend to patients deemed unfit to drive or fly.”

The parents of the three-year-old are calling for a change in the law, requiring any medical professional aware of a person's inability to drive safely to report them to the DVLA so that their licence is withdrawn.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers is a leading personal injury law firm and are experts in helping people with serious injury and road traffic accident compensation claims.

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