Hampshire Incidents

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Older drivers urged to take advantage of help on offer after motorist has lucky escape

Older drivers are being urged to take advantage of the help available to them so that they can stay safe on the road for longer, after a Southampton pensioner had a lucky escape


On the evening of February 2 a 70-year-old Southampton man decided to go for a drive around the New Forest. After several hours driving around the forest, he tried to complete a turn in the road and accidentally reversed down a boat launch where he plunged into the water.


He was rescued by nearby residents, who pulled him from the water, and was taken to hospital for a check-up.


The driver was later diagnosed with vascular dementia, which presents as episodes of confusion. He can appear fine one moment but then experience confusion the next. It’s a gradual and deteriorating condition which affects many people every year.


He surrendered his driving licence.


Sergeant Nick Tucker, said: “We all grow older, and our eyesight and some of our abilities diminish over the course of time. We do not always know, notice or realise that this is happening to us over the years. If you have an older relative or friend who drives, speak to them about their driving and how they feel about it. Remind and encourage them to have their eyesight routinely checked and if they have any concerns about their health, have them speak to their GP about driving.


“With the support of this driver and his family we wanted to highlight this incident to show the real life implications of growing older and driving. He surrendered his driving licence with dignity. It is lucky that he did not lose his life that evening.


“We work closely with The Older Drivers Forum whose work is all about keeping mature motorists on the road safely for longer. Whether that’s helping by giving practical and informative help and support to continue driving or pointing people in the right direction for an assessment to identify their driving needs – from wing mirror adapters to an elevated driving seat – the Forum’s here to help and signpost you to the people to help. 


“The Forum is a not-for-profit organisation made up of experts in road safety – from representatives from the emergency services, to charities, local authorities and businesses specialising in keeping older people on the road.


Sergeant Dave Hazlett, said: “The key message is about not becoming complacent about our driving. We know that many older drivers have a wealth of experience however as we get older our sight, hearing, reaction times and judgement of speed and distance may not be as sharp as it once was. We often pick up bad habits which become the norm without being aware of it.


“The Older Drivers Forum can help by giving advice on voluntary driving appraisals to suit your needs or build confidence.


“Our advice is don’t wait until you have a near miss, or worse, an accident to convince you to review your driving ability or to stop driving. Instead take preventative measures by planning ahead and seeking advice and support early.”


If you’re an older driver, or concerned for a friend or relative who is still driving, then the Older Drivers Forum may be able to help.


Please visit their website www.olderdriversforum.com for more information.