Grieving family calls for elderly drivers to take compulsory tests

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THE family of a teenager who was killed in a road accident last year has launched a petition calling for new government measures which they hope could save lives in the future.

Becky Spencer, whose brother Doug died when a pensioner turned across his motorcycle in February 2012, said they hoped the measures could save some families from experiencing a similar loss.

The petition calls for two measures – firstly a year-round campaign to promote driver awareness of motorcycles, and secondly some sort of compulsory assessment for elderly drivers to ensure their competence behind the wheel.

‘I know the government does a road safety campaign here but it is mainly concentrated at the TT and Manx Grand Prix periods,’ she said. ‘Local people are riding their bikes year round and also some residents go away for the TT and MGP weeks so they never see the campaigns at all.

‘There is sometimes a perception among drivers that it is the bike rider’s fault because they ride too fast or are being reckless so the message needs to be put out year round.’

Doug Spencer, aged 19, died on his way home from work when an 85-year-old driver turned across him into a driveway on the de-restricted section of road between Baldrine and Laxey. The driver admitted a charge of careless driving and a subsequent inquest ruled Mr Spencer’s bike would have been in view as the driver started to turn. The verdict was accidental death.

‘My dad also rides a motorcycle and is a TT and MGP scrutineer, and there does seem to be a few incidents over here involving bikers,’ she added.

‘I understand why old people want to carry on driving because it is part of their independence – but it is also for their safety as well as everyone else’s.’

What she would like to see is a test for eyesight as well as a test of elderly drivers’ reactions once they pass a certain age.

‘Everyone I’ve spoken to has been really keen and said they don’t understand how anyone could not think it was a good idea,’ she said.

A government spokesman said focused campaigns rather than continuous ones had more impact. For elderly drivers renewing their licence, medical conditions have to be declared and a medical assessment is made. Driving licences are issued for a maximum of 10 years up to 72. After that, drivers must then re-apply every three years to help catch medical conditions which develop.

The online petition started last Friday and so far has well over 100 signatures. It can be accessed at https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/isle-of-man-government-motorcycle-awareness-campaigns-and-tests-for-those-wishing-to-drive-after-70

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