Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

I got a nice email this afternoon from a reader I’ve not spoken with before called Elaine. She just passed her driving test at the first attempt, and she believes that the advice on this site helped her stay calm while she was learning.

Over the years, a few people who have contacted me via the Contact Form have thanked me for help they believe I have given them. I like to think their judgement is correct, but it isn’t something I would claim for myself.

The thought that what I write actually helps people makes me very happy indeed. Congratulations, Elaine, and you’re welcome!

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Another alert from DVSA concerning planned strikes from 1st to 4th of December by PCS union fossils within DVSA.

I have said before, and make no apologies for saying it again, but not all examiners are stupid enough to be in the union, and of those that are, not all of those are stupid enough to go on strike. Even DVSA is pretty much saying this in its emails.

DVSA is doing all it can to make sure that tests go ahead as planned. Not all examiners are union members, and many test centres are expected to be operating as normal.

You should turn up for your test no matter what – if you don’t, you might not be able to claim expenses. Keep your fingers crossed, especially if you live north of Sheffield or in London. That’s where the stupidity seems to be concentrated.

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This article is from 2010, and I wrote it because someone found the site using this precise search term, and then seemed to spend a bit of time looking at driving-related posts. More recently, I noticed an ADI asking for advice about a pupil he had who was a good driver, but who went completely to pieces on test when she had an examiner sitting beside her.

Don’t give up!

If you are having serious problems with nerves to the extent that you are unable to perform during your test, go and see your GP. Obviously, it is your GP who must decide – not me – but in cases where my pupils have had really debilitating nerves, their GP has sometimes prescribed beta blockers.Pills

These are usually used for treating certain heart conditions, but actors sometimes use them for stage fright (performance anxiety).

A few months ago one of my pupils had been having major issues, and she kept failing her test (well, a couple of times, anyway). I told her about beta blockers and she went to her GP, who immediately prescribed them.

On her tests, she was stoney-faced and serious, even though she was normally bubbly and chatty. The test really affected her. With beta blockers the change was astounding. She was her usual self on her next test, and she passed easily.

Beta blockers don’t turn you into a brilliant driver. But what they can do is turn you into a person who can become a brilliant driver, but who is prevented from doing so due to chronic nerves. I can’t guarantee they’ll work for you, but from what I have seen they certainly drop the nerves down a good few notches. However, there may be a reason why you can’t have them (two of my pupils were refused them due to other medication they were using, and pregnancy).

Let me stress again: I am not a doctor, so this is just advice to go and speak to your GP and explain the situation to him. He may be able to help you.


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Someone found the blog on the search term “are blacked out windows ok for driving instructors?” I think the terminology used speaks volumes, but let’s look at the Law.

The official government policy states:

Vehicles first used on 1 April 1985 or later

The front windscreen must let at least 75% of light through and the front side windows must let at least 70% of light through.

Vehicles first used before 1 April 1985

The front windscreen and front side windows must both let at least 70% of light through.

You will note that there isn’t that much difference between the two parts of the Law. But there’s even less flexibility when it comes to actually doing it. One window tinting company states:

Most modern car windows are made of glass with a 80-70% VLT [visible light transmission], so even a very light film applied to the front windows will take the VLT the wrong side of 70% and therefore will not be legal.

In other words, “blacked out” front windows are illegal, and even attempting to tint existing windows so they look darker is pretty much guaranteed to make them illegal, too.

Rear windows (side and back) are not included in the legislation so they can be as “blacked out” as you like. Of course, everyone knows that a car with almost opaque rear windows and normal front ones looks stupid, which is probably why people ask questions like this.

The government website also points out:

The police or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) vehicle examiners use light measuring equipment to measure window tint.

If your windscreen or front side windows are tinted too much you could get:

  • a ‘prohibition notice’ stopping you using your vehicle on the road until you have the extra tint removed
  • a penalty notice or court summons

As you can imagine, companies who provide window tinting are anxious to explain this in much greater detail. The same tinting company linked to above says:

An instrumented check is performed by a suitably trained officer with a ‘TintMan’ VLT meter. These checks are normally from Vosa roadside campaigns.

65%-46% VLT: Advise only – The driver will be advised that the legal requirements have been breached.

45%-30% VLT: Delayed prohibition – The driver will be given a prohibition notice and will usually have 10 days to have the film removed before going to a vosa testing station to have the VLT re-checked.

<30% VLT: Immediate prohibition – The vehicle is considered dangerous and cannot be driven until the film is removed.

However, another company is less willing to identify apparent loopholes. It says:

The Window tinting Regulation was amended from 1st January 2004 which now clearly rules out any tinted films being applied to driver windows (Front doors).

What they are saying is what I said above – that windows already have 70-80% VLT, so any further tinting sends them out of range.

Many instructors use cars which have tinted rear windows. They are not a problem on test, though I would imagine that if someone had been stupid enough to tint them so much that you couldn’t see out of them properly, the examiner might decide that they were a problem. And that says nothing of the disservice such an instructor would be doing their pupils by teaching them in a dangerously modified vehicle.

But any tinting of the front windows is likely to get you a cancelled test, a wonderful reputation, points on your licence, and perhaps a shiny new Job Seekers Allowance claim form if you get thrown off the register of approved instructors.

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DVSA has advised candidates to turn up for tests as normal when industrial action involving fossils who are members of the PCS Union takes place on 19 and 20 November.

Remember that not all examiners are stupid enough to be in the union in the first place, and of those who are, they’re not all that stupid that they’ll be involved in the action. Remember that the further north you are, the more likely you are to be affected (sorry, but based on previous strike action, this is true).

To claim out of pocket expenses, you MUST turn up.

Amusingly, I noticed someone defending the examiners recently. They said that a strike is necessary when negotiations on pay rises come to a stalemate, and when one party is behaving pig-headedly and saying “that’s all you’re getting”. They say that negotiation is about give and take.Carry on at Your Convenience - union

Interesting – and either very naive or blindly utopian. Tell you what, next time you’re on a lesson and a pupil tries to negotiate a lower price, instead of telling them that your rate is £23 and that’s it, let them name a price instead. I’m sure you’ll both live happily every after for a long time afterwards.

In actual fact, reasons for the strike this time around are somewhat confusing. Pay is certainly one issue that keeps being mentioned, and this has definitely been the core reason for numerous strikes over the last few years. However, other reports suggest that it is also due to protests over the proposed changes to the driving test, and an increase in the number each examiner has to conduct. This article makes it clear what the main issue is this time around. It is the plans to increase the number of tests they have to conduct which is the reason for the strike. There’s no mention of changes to the test – and this is coming from a source which would support the strikers no matter what.

Going on strike remains an antiquated left wing activity, which has no place in the 21st century unless you live more than 53°N (or in London) – then, it becomes a way of life. The examiners have a valid point on this occasion, but striking is not the way to resolve it. Indeed, they have cried wolf by striking over so many things in the last three years (which is why some news sources are saying it is about pay) that when something like this comes along few people can see the distinction. A “work to rule” would be have been far more effective because it wouldn’t have hurt test candidates.

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Here’s a conundrum for you. Take a look at this Shell garage, which is situated on the A606 at Tollerton. Firstly, the aerial view.Shell, Tollerton - Aerial

You will notice that it has an entrance off the A606, and an exit round the back on to Tollerton Lane. Depending on which pump you’ve used, or where other people have laughingly done something they call “parking”, you drive through narrow gaps either side of the main building to reach the exit.

The A606 is a busy road, and especially so during rush hour, and that’s why there’s a dedicated entrance and exit. Anyone trying to turn out of the entrance either has to hope that three lanes (two southbound and one northbound) are clear, or that these lanes will stop and let them out. For people who are too stupid to realise that this isn’t likely to happen, and who would almost certainly try it if they could (sometimes, they still do), Shell has helpfully placed No Entry signs on the garage side of the entrance, like this:Shell, Tollerton - entrance

And on the road side of the exit, like this:Shell, Tollerton - exit

Getting back on to the A606 is actually very simple. All you do is turn right at the exit, wait at the traffic lights at the junction, and that’s it. The obvious drawback (if you are a prat) is that you may have to add up to 60 seconds to your journey.

The garage forecourt is compact, so even driving in normally and finding a pump is something you have to do carefully. Pissing about trying to get your fuel flap pump-side if there is no convenient pump available is a no-no. Driving off from the pumps to the exit is also something requiring care, because if the car park area at the back is full (it only holds about four cars), people start to park wherever the hell they want – and if that means blocking one of the passages either side of the main building, then that’s precisely what they’ll do.

So here’s your starter question for ten: what do you do if you’re an Audi driver who has turned into Tollerton Lane, and who has then decided that he wants to go into the garage?

Correct. You drive in via the exit.

And here are your bonus questions:

  1. Once you’re in, where do you go next? That’s right: you drive briskly the wrong way past the buildings to get to the forecourt without any consideration for those driving the correct way to leave the garage.
  2. When you get there, do you park next to a pump facing the opposite way to everyone else, or do you block those trying to get in as you engage in what bears a passing resemblance to a turn in the road so that you can get your fuel flap pump-side? A bit of a trick question, as both answers are acceptable. Most Audi drivers aren’t aware that the fuel line is on a reel, and will reach across to the other side, and of the very few who are aware, they don’t want to risk the hose touching their paintwork.
  3. If you’re facing the wrong way once you’ve filled up, do you now attempt to turn around or do you use the entrance as an exit? Yes, another trick question, with both answers being correct. The typical Audi driver has the social conscience of a dog on a croquet lawn and attempting to turn right across three lanes of busy traffic using a forbidden exit is just as viable as blocking everyone while he turns his oversized pratmobile in a confined space.

I saw this happen last week, when a white Audi A8 caused my pupil to have to brake sharply as we turned into Tollerton Lane as he pondered his next move when confronted with the No Entry sign on Tollerton Lane.

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Well, the “Desreen’s Law” petition is closing in on 200,000 signatures in less than a week! Let’s just look at a sample of some very important posts people have made.

My grandfather is 90 and still driving despite having early onset dementia. The family have tried to intervene, reason with him and spoken with his GP. At the moment there is very little anyone can do to stop him driving; he is so stubborn but nobody has the power to force him to stop…

my 90 year old father in law nearly killed a cyclist – he had very poor vision, was deaf and had slow reactions. He refused to surrender his licence as it was ‘his independence’. My neighbours 85 yr old mother demolished a garden wall and 2 other cars – she mistook the accelerator for the brake and I was on duty in A/E on the day an elderly driver killed a 2 year old boy and maimed his father by driving over a sea wall – again an automatic car and misjudgement with lack of reactions. Finally, my husband was ‘rear ended’ just 2 weeks ago by an 82 year old lady driver, still accelerating when she hit him. He was stationary in the road, indicating to turn right when clear. Her excuse for writing off her car and his was that she had been driving that road for nearly 50 years and “no-one usually stops there to turn right” (into our own driveway incidentally!). My husband still has whiplash. Each driver filled in a ‘tick box’ form by DVLA at 70 stating they were fit to drive…

I would sign this petition a thousand times over if I could. On the 22nd of December last year, my Dad was killed in a motorbike accident. A 90 year old male, had failed to see him when turning into a junction, and cross right in front of my Dad’s path, causing him to die instantly. After months of waiting and trials, he had his license taken from him and a suspended sentence. Because of his age they didn’t send him down. For myself and my family no sentence will ever be enough. I am the eldest of his four children, the youngest was 5 when it happened. He also left behind my mum, who hasn’t been the same since…

We just had an incident in Edinburgh where an OAP was reported driving 4 miles the wrong side of a local motorway narrowly missing 2 head on collisions and had absolutely no idea of the situation…

My own mother was a blustering older driver – with many recent minor accidents (all that could have been worse) – when I would ask her to consider giving-up driving – the response was anger and waffle about freedom – but when she declared she had MS – the DVLA said she would have to re-test – she quietly did not bother proceeding – leading me to make the conclusion she KNEW she was no longer ‘up to it’…

Our eight year old son was killed by a 74 year old driver who we believe was banned because he suffered epileptic fits and was trying out his friend’s new car. As no witnesses came forward his friend took the call, said he was driving and that our son was the one at fault…

My grandad passed when he was 96,but didnt give up the car until he was 90, he was still driving even when it would endanger him and others around him. In his mind, he was able and young, but his body was the opposite. After countless family disputes he eventually gave up the car, under the condition that my dad drove them to get shopping/appointments…

As an older driver I am well aware that my reactions are not what they were. I plan to stop driving in the New Year, I shall be 66…

Someone who I know was killed by an oap driving out of his drive onto a main road so I fully support this…

When my husband was diagnosed with dementia it was our responsibility to inform DVLA which we did, many don’t. Something has to be changed…

As a serving firefighter I have been to several incidents where the elderly driver has been at fault and killed themselves or others…

I’m signing because I am 66 and I am fully aware that my reactions are slowing down especially at night…

I work in Traffic Management and elderly drivers cause most of the problems due to poor sight and reactions…

As a GP it is often left to me to work out which older drivers are safe or not to drive. I have no special training for this task. Older people who are no longer fit to drive often lack insight into this and their families also collude with them on this issue in my experience… As age increases reaction times and awareness can decrease and so I believe that proper retesting is essential for the safety of everyone.

A friend of a friend died in a similar situation leaving behind a wife and a young child and dying too young…

I saw my Dad’s driving as he aged, and yes, he was a danger in his latter days. Older drivers must be tested for the their, and everyone else’s safety…

With the help of my brother and putting a lot a pressure on my dad’s GP, I got his driving licence taken away from him. He is 87 frail but then got a diagnosis of vascular dementia. I work in the memory clinic I knew he was no longer capable. It was a very difficult decision but I could not have forgiven myself if something like that had happened…

My best friends brother was killed while riding his bike home from work by an 89 year old driver. The consequences are devastating…

I had to stop my father from driving because of his condition (Vascular Parkinsonism). He was 86. Hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but I’d do it again in a heartbeat…

My husband and 2 daughters were nearly wiped out on the M4 motorway earlier this year. An elderly lady pulled out and caused my husband to make an evasive action…

I know two drivers who both have serious health problems and are determined to keep driving despite having had recent accidents…

I have a neighbor who as dementia and has had it for a year,he has still been driving,Just been assessed because of this,Been waiting weeks for the results,His wife a none driver has been going out with him,Due to family pressures and me speaking up about me concerns,He has stopped,But car is still outside the house,I believe he is 72…

In dec 2011 my mother was knocked down and seriously injured .. She spent 9 days on life support and a bleed to the brain .. Her calf muscle was ripped off her leg and she had to be given cpr as her heart stopped 3 times .. This happened because a car mounted the pavement and knocked her down .. The driver was 82 years of age and hit the accelerator instead of the brake on his Aston Martin!!!! .. He was fined £480 and banned for life .. My mother has to live with her injuries for the rest of her life…

An elderly driver fell asleep mounted the pavement injuring my son and sister in law. My mother in law was killed…

Ma family was killed on the A1 near Gosforth because an elderly driver went up the wrong way on the opposite carriage…

My mum-in-law has dementia. Dementia has robbed her of her reasoning abilities. I had to disable her car to stop her from driving. Neither the DVLA nor the GP would help…

Fortunately my neighbour escaped such a tragedy. An elderly man accelerated and mounted the pavement just outside her house where she was with her children. Thankfully it was only the wall he destroyed…

Regular readers will know that I have a strong opinion regarding older drivers and their frequently flawed self-assessment of their abilities. But I must say that even I was taken aback by the scale of the problem represented by these quotations. And these are just sampled from the first hundred or so posts made within the last two hours! There are thousands more.

My own father is now nearly 90. He suffers from macular degeneration and can hardly see properly at all anymore. About 15 years ago, when his condition wasn’t as advanced (though his eyesight was still seriously impaired), he wanted to go down to Portsmouth to see the tall ships. He asked if he could borrow my car – at the time he was still self-assessing himself as fit to drive, though he hadn’t actually driven since shortly after he retired. I refused point blank, which upset him. But then I found out he was planning to hire a van to drive down there (and to sleep in – all the hotels were fully booked). I told him straight that if he hired any vehicle I would immediately report him to the police! He didn’t go, and shortly after that he admitted to me that he had decided that he couldn’t see well enough and had decided not to renew his licence.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who can understand just how fine a line there was between him driving and not driving (or rather, attempting to drive) a 400 mile round trip. I shiver when I think how many times a similar scenario must get played out – and how many times the outcome will be different to the one involving my dad.

That’s why we need “Desreen’s Law”.

A handful of people commenting on the petition have said it is ageist.

This is soooo ageist, I dont want to sign it thank you…

I find this petition out of order and blaming elderly drivers when the percentage of accidents causing death is far higher among young inexperienced drivers…

These people are idiots. Really, they are. Young people causing problems because they are prats is not the same as old people causing problems because they are physically and mentally incapable of handling a car anymore. Nor does the fact that an elderly driver not being able to drive anymore, so your nan or grandpa won’t be able to come and see you as easily, make it a bad idea to introduce re-testing.

Some commenters have trotted out the old “re-test everybody” mantra. Although I personally wouldn’t have a problem with that, it would be physically impossible to implement. However, it side-steps the core issue of older drivers having health problems which are entirely age-related.

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I don’t want to hijack the Desreen’s Rule post, but I was reading Benjamin Brooks-Hutton’s blog and there is one thing he says (as do some of the commentators) which he (and the commentators) are absolutely and utterly wrong about.

If an elderly driver is found guilty of dangerous driving – and especially if they cause death by dangerous driving – they deserve to go to jail for it. This is even more true if they purposely lied in order to stay on the roads.

I’m sorry, Ben, but they do. They are as guilty as a 17-year old would be. And they deserve a sentence of the same duration as the 17-year old would get.

Geoffrey Lederman showed no remorse, and made every attempt to get out of being prosecuted (causing even more pain than would otherwise have been experienced by Ben Hutton). Although little has been made of it, he claimed to have had “an episode” – in my books, given the evidence and the outcome of the trial, that is what is known in the civilised world as “a lie”. A straightforward case therefore took over two years to be dealt with. Lederman could have been put away for 14 years, but he got a very modest 18 months.

Mr Hutton is obviously still struggling to come to terms with what happened, whereas Lederman is almost certainly now back on the streets again (or will be within weeks). Since we know he tried to get out of the charges and showed no remorse, it doesn’t take much to imagine how he’s doing at the moment – and I’d lay odds that it’s not as bad for him as it is for Mr Hutton. Nor should Mr Hutton forget that Lederman came within millimetres of killing both him and his son, not to mention the fact that he ruined the life of Amy Werner, and very nearly the lives of five more pedestrians who he didn’t see (though I suspect that what they witnessed has hardly left their lives untarnished).

Lederman deserved to go to jail. He is very, very lucky he didn’t go there for longer.

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As I mentioned in my last article, there is a petition now open demanding a change in the Law so that elderly drivers are forced to undergo proper re-testing once they reach 70 years of age.Desreen Brooks with husband Benjamin

This petition was set up by Benjamin Brooks-Dutton, whose wife was killed by an elderly driver who got the brake and gas pedals mixed up and accelerated into her as she walked with him and their young son. He also inflicted permanent brain damage and the loss of sight in one eye to an American student, Amy Werner, who was also in his path.

This blog contains numerous examples of elderly drivers causing death or injury as a direct result of their age, and the fact that they have often lied about their health in order to retain their licences.

Please sign the petition, and pass it on to as many of your friends as you can. It is vital that the government starts listening to sense instead of the voices of those whose votes it might lose if it took action. There is a semi-permanent link on the right of the page which I will keep live as long as the petition is live.

We need Desreen’s Law now.

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Please note that there is a petition open for signing over at Change.org. I’m going to put a separate article up to emphasise this. And thanks to blog reader “Sam” who brought all of this to my attention.

Regular readers will know that I have no sympathy for older drivers who end up killing or maiming people as a direct result of their age and deteriorating physical capabilities. Only last week I wrote about a 98-year old who was complaining that his insurance premium had gone up as a result of his age, and in that article I mentioned how a few weeks before that an 87-year old had got himself on to the M1 on the wrong carriageway near Nottingham and killed both himself and the passenger of another vehicle after he collided head on with them.Desreen Brooks and her son Jackson

A few days later I wrote about an 82-year old woman who had gone missing in fog and instead of completing a 4 mile journey in perhaps 15 minutes, had been discovered by police 6 hours later 50 miles away, having taken a a route that utilised several very busy (and foggy) motorways. Thank God that she was recaptured before she could hurt anyone.

But this story had gone under my radar. It happened in 2012 and involved a young mother being killed when an 83-year old drove into her as she pushed her two-year old son in his pushchair. Another pedestrian was also left with permanent brain damage and the loss of sight in one eye.

That was 2012, remember. There is then a huge gap of more than 2 years until the next update appears anywhere. Geoffrey Lederman, the 83-year old in question, along with his lawyers had apparently been delaying the case going to court, trying to get it thrown out based on his “anxiety” and “stress”. However, once it got there it was the usual tale of an older driver in an automatic car getting confused about the brake and gas pedals, hitting the wrong one, and not having the capabilities to switch to the correct one instead. Lederman failed to see NINE pedestrians on the pavement as he mounted it at an average speed of 54mph (this was in a 30mph zone in West Hampstead, London). It also became clear that Lederman had defective eyesight and had previously suffered a stroke. The report I have linked to here also notes that:

Moments before the crash he had stopped to check his car after ‘nudging’ a pizza delivery man before carrying on his way, the court heard.

Mr Kark [prosecutor] said: ‘He said he lost control soon after that, within seconds he seemed to be on the wrong side of the road going at almost racing car speed.

‘He was tugging on the handbrake with no effect.’

In the minutes before the crash Lederman’s Mercedes was seen revving loudly for up to ten seconds as it sat stationary outside West Hampstead Underground Station.

So, he’d actually hit someone only minutes earlier and had been revving for some reason just prior to that!

There was no mechanical fault with the car, and investigators found that Lederman had mistakenly kept his foot on the gas pedal thinking it was the brake before driving off and causing this.

Mr Kark said: ‘It may be that when Geoffrey Lederman engaged the drive gear when he believed he was pressing the brake or hadn’t realised the car had slipped into neutral.’

At this point in time (2014), Lederman was expected to claim that he’d had some sort of seizure.

In December 2014, Lederman was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was also banned from driving for life. It’s worth pointing out that Lederman will probably be out of jail by now, though Mrs Brooks is still dead, and her son still has no mother. You have to read different versions of this latest story to piece together a true picture of what Lederman has put Mr Brooks-Dutton (Desreen’s husband) and Jackson through.

Lederman had been to a 7-hour bridge tournament and was driving home in the dark (it was a Saturday evening in early November). His defence team did indeed try to get the case thrown out on the grounds that Lederman had suffered “an episode” and could not be accountable for his actions. When that appeal failed, two doctors testified that it was “unfair” to try an old man who was now suffering mental health problems as a result of the accident.Fortunately, the judge was having none of it, and he accused the defence team of “holding a gun to the court’s head”. There is no mention of whether the two “doctors” were struck off – they damned well should have been.

Lederman has shown no signs of remorse at any time during proceedings (which have lasted more than two years).

Dr Jonathan Beckett, an expert in old age psychiatry at the private Nightingale Hospital in Marylebone, told the court that Mr Lederman’s mental health had deteriorated rapidly in the run-up to the trial and he had become very anxious.

He said: “He is also a very proud man who has led an unblemished life. He has a very strong moral code. The fact that he would be here in the court being tried in this way… he would have to view himself as a liar.”

Tom Kark QC, prosecuting, said during the appeal: “He is apparently able to conduct his life relatively normally… The court cannot be blackmailed into not trying serious crimes.”

Judge Clarke said: “Do you think that his concern about the destruction [of his reputation] is even greater than his concern that he has caused someone’s death? Does he not regard himself as having any duty towards the next of kin of the woman [Desreen Brooks]?

If ever anything bad happens to me, I want Tom Kark on my side.

Please sign the petition over at Change.org to lobby for compulsory retesting of drivers when they reach 70. I’m dubbing it “Desreen’s Law”, along the lines of “Cassie’s Law” (Cassie McCord was 16 when she was killed by an 87-year old). That petition was successful – let’s hope this one is, too.

It needs a loud voice from the public. Remember that these aged time bombs constitute a significant proportion of the voting population and their political allegiances would, I suggest, make this current government somewhat reluctant to upset them in any way. But the government cannot ignore the majority if that majority is large enough.

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All drivers 70 or older to be compulsorily re-tested