Should drivers over 70 years old be retested?

Wedding photo of Ben Brooks-Dutton and his wife Desreen Image copyright Ben Brooks-Dutton
Image caption Desreen Brooks and her husband Ben Brooks-Dutton had been walking on the street in north London when she was hit by a car

A man whose wife was killed by an elderly driver, who mistook the accelerator for the brake, has started a popular online petition calling for over-70s to be retested every three years.

Ben Brooks-Dutton was heading home from a friend's house with his family one evening three years ago.

"It was then that I heard my wife, Desreen, speak her final words," Brooks-Dutton wrote in a recent online post. His wife's final words were: "I'm so proud of him" - referring to the couple's two-year-old son, Jackson.

"Seconds later a car mounted the pavement and struck Desreen... In that moment I became a widower," Brooks-Dutton wrote.

The car was driven by 85-year-old Geoffrey Lederman, who was sentenced to 18 months in jail for causing death by dangerous driving, a sentence that was later reduced to 12 months on appeal.

Brooks-Dutton, who chronicled life after his wife's death on a blog, also started a petition on Change.org 6 days ago, calling for compulsory testing of drivers every three years once they reach age 70. It garnered about 140,000 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.


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At the moment, drivers over age 70 in the UK must fill in a self-assessment form every three years to renew their licences. The form doesn't include a medical or driving test.

"I know the human cost of unfit drivers on the road and I never want anyone to go through a tragedy like the one that has decimated my family," Brooks-Dutton wrote on the petition's page. Several commenters said they were elderly drivers who agreed with the proposal.

"I'm on the verge of 70 - and I've already independently decided to take myself off the road in the wider interests of the travelling public," wrote one. "I'm 61, and intend giving up driving when I'm 70," said another.

Image copyright Change.org

But there were others who disagreed with the idea.

"Dreadfully sorry for your loss, but the death was caused by bad driving, not the drivers' age," one (non-signing) commenter wrote. "Most car deaths are caused by young drivers, why spread hate and stereotypes in this way? My father was still driving at 85, and had a clean driving license when he passed on - don't be an ageist, it stinks."

Data shows that drivers under the age of 20 have more fatal accidents than drivers over 75, though there is some evidence to suggest drivers over the age of 80 are at an increased risk of accidents.

Brooks-Dutton's petition is addressed to Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin. On the government's official website, petitions that reach 100,000 signatures are considered for a debate in Parliament.

In 2013, the Department of Transport said there is no evidence older drivers are more likely to cause an accident, and it had no plans to restrict licensing on the basis of age. In a statement to BBC Trending on Tuesday, a department spokesperson said: "Age alone is not a reliable indicator of a person's fitness to drive and the vast majority of older people continue to drive safely."

Blog by Mike Wendling

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