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Older drivers should have health checks, Norfolk driving instructors say

PUBLISHED: 15:49 21 January 2019

Prince Philip's, the Duke of Edinburgh, car being made ready for recovery after he was involved in a road traffic accident on the A149 at Babingley, near King’s Lynn. Photo: Chris Bishop

Prince Philip's, the Duke of Edinburgh, car being made ready for recovery after he was involved in a road traffic accident on the A149 at Babingley, near King's Lynn. Photo: Chris Bishop

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Driving instructors across Norfolk say health checks should be introduced to ensure elderly drivers are safe when they get behind the wheel.

Last week’s crash involving 97-year-old Prince Philip has reignited the debate around older drivers.

Two people were taken to hospital after the crash on Thursday, which happened on the A149 in west Norfolk and saw the Duke of Edinburgh’s Land Rover Freelander land on its side.

While a cause for the accident hasn’t been revealed, the crash has led to debate over whether those aged 75 and above should be able to drive without checks.

Under the current system, older drivers are asked to re-apply for their driving licences when they are 70 and then every three years after that.

The process, however, largely involves a yes or no checklist that applicants must complete to confirm they meet the set requirements.

Beyond this, there are few further checks.

We spoke to driving instructors across Norfolk about their views on elderly drivers, with many agreeing that older drivers should have to undergo health checks.

Coleman Flaherty, of the Norwich-based Coleman School of Motoring, said the choice to continue driving should no longer be down to self-assessment, “but instead there should be a system where drivers need a) a certificate from the opticians and b) a medical certificate from a doctor”.

It would be similar to the system used for heavy goods vehicle drivers.

The sentiment was shared by Michael Wright, at Michael Wright Driving Tuition, which is based in Thorpe St Andrew, as well as Nigel Pickwell, of Shipdham-based Mid-Norfolk Driving Tuition, who said while it was “not a straightforward question”, “at the very least there should be some kind of health check”.

Some we spoke to said that older drivers should be retested to determine whether they keep their licences.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at road safety charity Brake, has said it was “even more essential” to have “robust” procedures in place that drivers were not putting themselves and others at risk.

He said there should be compulsory eyesight testing and regular health checks.

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