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Elderly drivers should be retested, Hartley Wintney family say
PLEASE change the law to ensure elderly people are fit to drive – that was the message from the family of a man whose death was caused by an 89-year-old motorist driving the wrong way on a dual carriageway near Basingstoke.
Neil Colquhoun, of Birch Grove, Hook, died following a head-on collision that took place on the A30 between Water End and Hatch, on March 11 last year.
Last Friday, retired GP Turner Waddell, of Esplanade Avenue, Porthcawl, Wales, was given a suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving. He was also banned from driving for life.
After the hearing at Winchester Crown Court, Mr Colquhoun’s mother and father, Patricia and Les Colquhoun, of Harebell Close, Hartley Wintney, and brother Ross said more must be done to make sure elderly motorists are fit to drive. Mrs Colquhoun, 61, told The Gazette : “When a driver reaches 70, all that he or she has to do is complete a form to say that they are medically fit, and a driving licence is issued for another three years.
“Though I acknowledge that there are many safe drivers on our roads, there are some who are not, and families are sometimes too afraid to confront elderly relatives as to their failing abilities.
“My son, who had a wealth of friends and family who loved him dearly, and who had just started a new job with such hopes and plans for the future, has been so cruelly robbed of this.”
The court heard that Waddell, who is now 90, was travelling with his wife from his then home in Andover Down to see a show in Basingstoke, when he got lost.
He is thought to have turned right from Water End Lane, by the Red Lion pub, and headed west on the A30 eastbound carriageway.
Daniel Sawyer, prosecuting, said that passing motorists flashed their lights and sounded their horns as Waddell drove at 60mph in the wrong direction.
The court heard that credit manager Mr Colquhoun was in the outside lane, completing an overtaking manoeuvre on a bend, when he saw the oncoming headlights of Waddell’s Volvo.
Mr Sawyer said: “Neither driver had time to react, and the two cars collided head-on. Both cars spun around and Mr Colquhoun’s car was spun into the path of the car he had just overtaken.”
The court heard that motorists dragged Waddell and his wife, who were both seriously injured, from their car, but could not reach Mr Colquhoun because his car was on fire. Mr Sawyer added that doctors believe the 28-year-old died almost instantly of chest injuries.
The court heard that Waddell, who practised as a GP in the Andover area, had very limited sight in his left eye, and below the legal requirement in his right eye. A doctor had seen him the day before, but assumed Waddell did not drive and so did not warn him.
Mr Sawyer added that unknown to Waddell, he also had a bleed in his brain that would have contributed to his confusion.
Charlie Gabb, defending, said the Water End Lane junction was confusing and had led to other drivers turning into the wrong carriageway of the A30.
He added: “For a man who has spent his life making sure life is retained, to know he has been instrumental in taking one, it’s a shattering blow.”
Judge Keith Cutler sentenced Waddell to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and said there was “a form of arrogance” with elderly drivers carrying on driving when they should not.
He told Waddell: “I have come to the conclusion that you should not have been on the road at all.
“If there’s a message to be sent out in this case, it may well be that the elderly, who think they can drive, and those who care for them, should look very carefully at whether they are still able to drive on the roads.”
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