22 May 2018
Bereaved Family Calls For Government to Create New Law
The parents of a three year old girl run down and killed by a pensioner who was told his eyesight made him unfit to drive have launched a campaign to change the law.
This survey shows the public's overwhelming support for changing the law. We urge Parliament to take the case of Poppy-Arabella seriously to prevent such a devastating tragedy occurring again.
Poppy-Arabella Clarke’s parents formally began their campaign as new research revealed that 82 per cent of people agree medical professionals should legally have to report drivers who are unfit to get behind the wheel.
Poppy-Arabella died when John Place drove into her and her mother Rachel after driving through a red light. He had been told by two optometrists that his eye sight was so poor that he was unsafe to drive and was jailed for four years last year.
Health professionals, including doctors and optometrists, currently do not have to report patients to the DVLA if they believe they should not be driving.
But research carried out by law firm Slater and Gordon, which represents Poppy-Arabella’s parents, overwhelmingly supported their call to change the law to protect people from unsafe motorists, including more stringent and regular eye tests.
The survey of more than 2,000 people was carried out by the law firm after representing a number of clients killed or injured by medically unfit drivers.
Only 22 per cent of those surveyed knew that doctors and optometrists do not have to report their patients to the DVLA when they are medically unfit to drive.
Poppy-Arabella’s mother Rachel, who was seriously injured in the crash in which her daughter died, said: "We love and miss little Poppy so very much, our hearts and those of her friends and community broke the day she died. She was, and always will be, so very loved.
"We waited for the green man to be illuminated, checked both ways and crossed correctly, to be struck on the crossing by Mr Place who failed to stop. Mr Place had failed his eyesight test weeks earlier whilst wearing his glasses and then did not put those glasses on the day he drove through the red light, having left them at home. I woke up in the gutter to the realisation that my little girl was lying inches away from me devastatingly injured. Little Poppy-Arabella died later that evening.
"It has taken us over a year and a half since Mr Place was sentenced to gather the strength to help launch this campaign in Poppy’s memory. It is crucial that the Government creates a law to put the responsibility on medical professionals to report drivers who cannot see well enough, or have other medical issues that deem them unfit to drive, to the DVLA. It is only by doing this that such a terrible tragedy can be prevented from happening again.
"Poppy-Arabella was a gentle soul and incredibly kind. It is truly very, very sad that her life was taken from her. We would now urge everybody to write to their local MP or the Prime Minister to support the campaign to change the law.”
Poppy-Arabella’s father Phil said: “Having been told that, even with glasses on, his eyesight was far below any standard of road worthy capability, he decided to drive and extinguished the life of our kind, caring and quite wonderful little girl. This has left our family devastated and heartbroken for the rest of our lives.
“If this law had been passed when the optometrists knew Place was unfit to drive his car, they would have had a legal obligation to inform the DVLA. Then perhaps Poppy-Arabella would still be here with us today and Rachel would not have suffered such terrible injuries.
“This survey shows the public's overwhelming support for changing the law. We urge Parliament to take the case of Poppy-Arabella seriously to prevent such a devastating tragedy occurring again."
The research found one in seven of those questioned knew somebody they believed was unsafe to drive for medical reasons, but still get behind the wheel. While 36 per cent took action to prevent their loved one from driving straight away over a third did nothing to stop them.
Concerned relatives say they have fought with family members and friends over whether they should drive or not, carried out chores for them so they didn’t get behind the wheel and even hidden their car keys.
One in 12 of respondents said they suffered from a medical condition that was currently causing them problems with driving, while a further one in eight said they had a condition that they thought would cause them difficulties with driving in the future.
Richard Langton, a specialist serious injury lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which represents the family, said: "Time and time again we see tragic cases like that of Poppy-Arabella, where people are either killed or maimed by motorists who should never have been on the road.
“This deadly legal loophole, where medical professionals are not obliged to tell the DVLA about motorists who are unsafe to drive, but also feel they are unable to because of patient confidentiality, simply has to be closed to prevent more unnecessary and pointless deaths. We call on the Government to listen to what happened to Poppy-Arabella, take note of our research and what the public has had to say and introduce a law that would save many lives.”
More than eight in 10 believe that everyone should have an on obligatory eye test at the age of 70 while a third believe all motorists should have to retake their driving test at the same age.
But it is not just the over 70s who should have regular eye tests, with 84 per cent of people saying that all motorists should have regular examinations, with almost a quarter believing drivers should undergo one every year.
Almost four in 10 feel that the current eye test for the driving test exam – being able to read a number plate from 67ft or 20 metres – is insufficient and should be updated.
Poppy-Arabella’s mum Rachel added: “Poppy-Arabella left her home on the day happy and excited to see her friends at nursery. She never got there. It is our hope that with the results of the survey and support of the public, this campaign will create the necessary law to protect lives and prevent tragedy.”