A Driving Instructor's Blog

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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