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Grandmother of teen crash victim calls for law change
THE grandmother of a teenager killed in a car crash caused by an 89 year-old dementia sufferer driving the wrong way says she can not give up the fight to change the law after another accident.
Charlotte Pitwell died in September 2011 after a confused pensioner drove on the wrong side of the Marlow bypass, leading to a collision.
Earlier this month an inquest heard how an 86 year-old woman died in Denham after driving the wrong way on the M40. Coroner Richard Hulett called the current laws on elderly drivers 'puny' and reiterated his call for politicians to act.
Stella Pitwell, 77, Charlotte's gran, said the latest story had reignited her desire to see something done.
The family's case was taken up by MP Steve Baker.
But the Department for Transport has now told them in a letter it will not be changing the law.
Mrs Pitwell, of Mentmore Road, Booker, said this had hurt.
She said: "They haven't given us any hope or anything, nothing is going to be done when something needs to be. The impact on the family has been terrible.
"We were so close and I just miss her so much, I really do.
"She gave me an eey-ore cuddly toy which says 'I love you so much'. I keep it on my bed all the time and I cuddle it and I still cry," she said.
Mrs Pitwell, who used to work at John Hampden and Mill End schools, showed the Free Press another gift Charlotte had given her - in which she says her gran was 'so special' to her.
Mrs Pitwell, who used to clean at the Hour Glass pub, said she still remembers vividly the last time she saw Charlotte - the night before the crash - and hugged her goodbye.
She said: "I can't forget, I can't let it go. I just want to do something for Charlotte, she was an incredible person and I want something to come out of it which will make the world a better place."
Despite being a pensioner herself, Mrs Pitwell insisted drivers over a certain age must face tougher regulation.
"We haven't got our faculties over a certain age, not everyone. "There have been a number of cases other than Charlotte and I just think that these elderly drivers should be seen medically every three years at least.
"If we can do something through her name which will alter the law that would be really great."
MP Mike Penning, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport, wrote in a letter to the family that he was "extremely sorry to hear" about Charlotte's death.
But he said: "I do not believe that mandatory re-testing is the best way forward. Instead I favour an approach which helps ageing drivers to retain their skills."
He cited existing training schemes and said he was keen to to work with voluntary groups representing the elderly to develop more of these.
THE RULES AS THEY STAND
Currently, letters are sent to drivers before their 70th birthday, inviting them to reapply for their licence. They are issued with a medical questionnaire. It works on a self declaration basis.
Drivers over 70 then have to reapply every three years. If any medical conditions are declared, the DVLA will consider whether to revoke a licence or seek medical records and may even request another test is taken.
Everyone regardless of age has a legal responsibility to declare at any time any onset of a health condition which may affect their driving and failure to do so is a criminal offence, the DVLA said. DVLA have a fast tack notification process whereby police can complete a specially designed form to tell them about a suspicion of ill health, which are looked at within 24 hours.
Anyone can raise such concerns with the police, If sufficient evidence of a relevant disability is received the driving licence is withdrawn immediately.
The DVLA said in a statement: "All drivers must ensure that they are medically fit to drive and to notify DVLA of the onset or worsening of a medical condition affecting this. We have special arrangements with medics and police for them to notify us quickly about diagnosed or suspected health problems and we investigate these urgently.
"The rules are clear that all drivers over 70 have to renew their licence every three years and have to tell the DVLA about any conditions which might affect their driving. If we find evidence a driver does not meet the appropriate medical standard we immediately suspend their licence.
"Evidence does not show that older drivers are more likely to cause a serious accident than others and there are no plans to restrict licensing on the basis of the age of a driver."
- The police already have the power to temporally arrest any driver who is threat to themselves or others. If the driver can then be fast tracked through a court then a licence can be withdrawn by the magistrate or judge. It is also possible for DVLA to fast track referrals and revoke a driving licence.
- DVLA takes the decision on whether a driver is medically fit to drive. A notification that contains enough evidence of the driver’s inability to meet the appropriate medical standard allows a decision to be made immediately to remove entitlement to drive. Where further information is required from the individual, their doctor or from a driving assessor, the driver is advised to seek the advice of their doctor about whether they should drive whilst their fitness to drive is being investigated.
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