But en­thu­si­asts in­sist that it could be dis­as­trous for clas­sic scene

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Mur­ray Scul­lion­buamx

‘Com­pul­sory retest­ing would put many safe driv­ers off for no real ben­e­fit’ NEIL GREIG, IAMROADSMART

Manda­tory re-test­ing of driv­ers ev­ery three years af­ter the age of 70 could have cat­a­strophic ef­fects on the hobby, say clas­sic clubs.

Calls for re-test­ing are gain­ing mo­men­tum, as the hus­band of a woman who was killed by an oc­to­ge­nar­ian driv­ing a clas­sic car has cre­ated a pe­ti­tion call­ing for the Government to in­tro­duce com­pul­sory age-ap­pro­pri­ate retest­ing ev­ery three years once a driver turns 70.

Ben Brooks-Dut­ton set up the on­line pe­ti­tion af­ter his wife Des­reen died in 2012. Ge­of­frey Le­d­er­man (now 85), who was driv­ing a 1982 Mercedes-Benz 380SL, and de­scribed by wit­nesses as ‘scream­ing’ along West End Lane in West Hamp­stead, north Lon­don, mounted the pave­ment at 50mph, killing Des­reen in­stantly.

Black­fri­ars Crown Court heard that the pen­sioner ac­cel­er­ated when he meant to brake, killing Des­reen and leav­ing an Amer­i­can stu­dent with brain dam­age.

By their very na­ture, clas­sic clubs have mem­bers who are older than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. One ex­am­ple is the Model A Club of Great Bri­tain, whose mem­bers’ av­er­age age is more than 67.

Vice chair­man Bob Wilkin­son says: ‘Most of our club mem­bers would have no phys­i­cal prob­lems tak­ing the test ev­ery three years. But at the same time our club, among oth­ers, would be dec­i­mated, as would many thriv­ing busi­nesses like restora­tion work shops and stor­age fa­cil­i­ties. There are also wor­ries about whether it would af­fect clas­sic in­sur­ance poli­cies.

‘I’m 76 and per­fectly healthy, but this sub­ject comes up a great deal. To im­pose an ar­bi­trary age at which to get re-tested is silly.’

James Black­well, as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager of the Jaguar En­thu­si­asts Club, adds: ‘Our mem­bers above 70 are gen­er­ally sen­si­ble, and if they felt they were im­peded in driv­ing they’d give them­selves up.’

Di­rec­tor of pol­icy and re­search for IAMRoadSmart (pre­vi­ously the In­sti­tute of Ad­vanced Mo­torists), Neil Greig says: ‘It would be un­fair to say that all driv­ers aged 70 and above are un­safe. As a group, older driv­ers are among the safest on the road. The vast ma­jor­ity know their lim­its and ul­ti­mately make the right de­ci­sion on when to give up. Com­pul­sory retest­ing would put many safe driv­ers off, would be costly for no real ben­e­fit and could lead to lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion.’

At the time of writ­ing, the pe­ti­tion has re­ceived 250,151 sig­na­tures. The pe­ti­tion will be de­liv­ered to Chris Grayling MP, sec­re­tary of state for trans­port if the pe­ti­tion reaches 300,000 sig­na­tures.

Ben Brooks-Dut­ton, who started the pe­ti­tion, says: ‘No-one as­sesses an older per­son’s driv­ing skills or re­ac­tions, no-one checks their eye­sight or hear­ing, no-one sees if their re­ac­tions are still sharp enough to stop in an emer­gency.

‘De­spite this, some of­fi­cials are rec­om­mend­ing that in order to save costs, peo­ple shouldn’t have to re­new their driv­ing li­cence un­til they are 80.

‘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.’

Pro­posed retests for older driv­ers has re­ceived a cool re­ac­tion from UK clubs.

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