Coroner calls for dementia checks on older drivers

File photo dated 18/05/17 of an elderly man. Health services for people at a high risk of dementia need to be overhauled to focus on early diagnosis and treatment, experts have said.

After tending to a crash in which a victim was killed by an 88-year-old driver with dementia, a coroner is calling for older motorists to be routinely checked for the condition. Deborah archer, the assistant coroner for Plymouth and South Devon, is set to write to the Department for Transport urging for regular checks on older drivers.

Her call comes after a women was killed by an 88-year-old driver on a busy street. Evelyn Fisher, 61, was hit by a car driven by William Sherlock. It was later found Sherlock was showing early signs of dementia.

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After Fisher died in hospital the next day, Sherlock was charged with causing death by dangerous driving. However, he was deemed unfit to stand trial. He later voluntarily surrendered his driving licence.

Currently, conditions such as dementia are 'self-reporting' – meaning drivers are expected to decide for themselves if they are fit to drive. In her letter, Archer calls for the government to introduce mandatory testing for drivers aged 80 and older. "It is the best I can do to try and make sure some good comes out of this terrible incident," she said.

Three medical experts concluded Sherlock was not fit to face trial. One commented that he had suffered 'vacant episodes' and 'partial seizures' before the crash. In a report, he wrote: "He [Sherlock] had never been advised to stop driving but in my opinion he was in the early stages of undiagnosed dementia at the time. Dementia increases the risk of accidents due to poor judgement."

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