The partner of a 64-year-old woman killed by an 86-year-old driver has today said that he takes no pleasure in seeing the man being sentenced to 27 months for causing her death and has renewed calls for his local MP Boris Johnson to change the law on older drivers.
Jeanette Newman, aged 64, had just finished shopping with a friend and was leaving Sainsbury’s in South Ruislip on 26 May last year when an 86-year-old man reversed his Ford Fusion approximately 100 feet at speed into both Ms Newman and her friend, Sarah Taylor.
Jeanette died in hospital the next day and Sarah sustained life changing injuries as a result of the incident.
Today at Harrow Crown Court, the driver, who is now 87, had earlier pleaded guilty to death by dangerous driving and serious injury by dangerous driving caused by pedal confusion, was sentenced to 27 months for death by dangerous driving and 13 months for causing serious injury by dangerous driving. The sentences will run concurrently.
Jeanette’s partner of 25 years, Andrew Roberts, aged 58, has been left devastated by her shocking and untimely death. He says: “I am a broken man since Jeanette was so violently and suddenly taken away. Of course, I feel strongly about the person who caused her death, but there are no winners in this situation. What needs to happen now is a change in the law on older drivers.
“I wrote to my local MP Boris Johnson back in the summer about the issue, but he didn’t agree. I urge him to reconsider.
“Currently, when you turn 70, the DVLA will send you a form to renew your licence for three years. A driver then needs to declare on this form that they are still fit and able to drive safely. Any driver can happily fill out the form every three years declaring their fitness to drive without any need for proof.
“Yet asking older people to self-regulate in this way is clearly not working. The law needs to change. I fully appreciate that for some older people driving is a lifeline, and many will do so safely, but in the same way that a test needs to be passed at the start of someone’s driving career, then the same should apply once someone reaches 70. With an ageing population, it’s just too big a risk not to change the law.”
In July 2017 the DVLA released figures to show that the number of drivers over the age of 90 had reached 100,000 for the first time ever and that there were more than 4.5 million drivers over the age of 70 in the UK.
There is currently no upper age limit to driving in the UK. In his letter to Mr Johnson, Andrew Roberts said:
I am in favour of a mandatory practical test for all drivers when they reach 70, which should be supplemented by a compulsory annual medical review once they reach 75. For drivers aged 85 and over, I would advocate an annual medical review and a practical test every two years.
I have been particularly influenced by the systems in New South Wales, Australia and in Illinois, USA, where older drivers face similar testing.
Prior to the accident Jeanette’s friend, Sarah Taylor, aged 53, was fully-fit and working part-time in marketing. As a result of the accident, she suffered a stroke, four prolapsed discs, injury to her right hip and a head injury. She underwent surgery for a traumatic cataract in her right eye. She is attempting to return to work, and now lives with decreased hearing in her right ear, incontinence, swallowing problems and post-traumatic stress disorder. She is likely to need long-term treatment and lifelong medication.
Sarah says: “This incident has turned my life upside down. Not only have I lost a very dear friend, I have problems with my vision, my hearing and my mental health. I am unsure if I will ever hold down a job again or do many of the things I used to enjoy. My freedom has been taken away from me.”
Solicitor Laura Swaine at London law firm Osbornes Law is acting for Andrew Roberts and Sarah Taylor says: “Given the steady increase in cars on the road and the age of many drivers, it is high time the law was reviewed to ensure that safety standards can be maintained. This is as much for the protection of older drivers as it is for other road users and pedestrians.”
In his letter to Andrew dated August 2019, Boris Johnson said: “At the moment, the Government does not have plans to alter the rules governing the renewal of driving licence to those over the age of 70…The current licensing arrangements are designed to be balanced and proportionate without penalising drivers who continue to drive safely, and robust safeguards are in place to ensure that individuals are fit to drive.”