Wrong way driver gives up her licence

AN 83-year-old driver, who narrowly avoided disaster while trundling the wrong way down the A14 on a day out, will rely on public transport in future.A Bank Holiday jaunt towards Copdock on the Felixstowe-bound carriageway has led to the OAP relinquishing her driving licence.

AN 83-year-old driver, who narrowly avoided disaster while trundling the wrong way down the A14 on a day out, will rely on public transport in future.

A Bank Holiday jaunt towards Copdock on the Felixstowe-bound carriageway has led to the OAP relinquishing her driving licence.

Seemingly unaware of the havoc being caused, the pensioner pootled along the one-mile stretch of road between the A137 at Wherstead and the A12 interchange, sparking 999 calls to police.

Lorries and cars were forced to take evasive action. And Suffolk police sent up their helicopter to help a patrol car despatched to look for woman's red Toyota Starlet.

After the incident, which happened around 1.30pm on January 3, her car was traced to an address in Essex and officers went to her home.

Anna Woolnough, spokeswoman for Suffolk police, said as a result of the visit the OAP has said she will give up driving.

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Mrs Woolnough said: "I can confirm that following a number of reports of a small red car being driven the wrong way over the Orwell Bridge. Police from Suffolk traced the owner of the vehicle, an 83-year-old woman from Essex.

"Following a discussion with an officer the woman decided to voluntarily

surrender her driving licence."

During the chaos at least one other driver was forced to swerve his lorry, cutting up another HGV in the process, to avoid a head-on collision with the confused pensioner.

The lorry's driver 21-year-old Peter Ray, of Hogarth Road, Ipswich, said he was overtaking another HGV, when he spotted the car coming towards him.

He said: "The woman had glasses on and she was sitting there in the car with her mouth open. I think she knew she was in the wrong lane, but was oblivious to the havoc she was causing. Her car was moving, but not very fast."

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says it would not be unreasonable to expect elderly people to prove they are fit and healthy.

Head of road safety Kevin Clinton said: "Ideally, drivers should be encouraged to undergo a formal medical check before renewing their licence when they reach 70 years of age, and again each time their licence is renewed.

"Serious consideration should also be given to a system of compulsory medical checks, and whether such checks might best be conducted by the driver's own GP or by an independent 'driving' doctor."

Anton Tungate, a senior road safety officer with Suffolk County Council said: "The thing about ageing is it is slow, you don't notice it. But you have to realise whether you like it or not you have to accept your reactions were much quicker in your twenties or thirties - it's a simple fact that reactions slow down. You have got to realise that some people have got to the stage where they should consider giving up their licence.

"Some people have never even taken a test. Those born in the 1920's didn't need a test, they just drove and that's it. Elderly drivers have got to be aware of the issues about health, eyesight and hearing."

What do you think about the rules regarding elderly drivers? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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