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Fitness to drive system causes controversy

Drivers are not having their licences taken away despite being medically incapable of driving safely, new research suggests.

And David Bushnell, product manager – mobility, Alphabet GB Limited, has warned that the Finance Bill announcements have now led to discussions over ‘cash versus car’ as companies weigh up which one they choose to offer

The research indicates that more work needs to be done on the fitness to drive system

The study, carried out by Direct Line Car Insurance, found almost two-thirds (64%) of doctors believe such drivers are still on the road and that the current system for assessing fitness to drive is ineffective.

The new research find that DVLA figures show the number of drivers having their licence refused or revoked on medical grounds is falling, despite an aging population. Between 2016 and 2017 the number of Group 1 (car or motorcycle) licences refused or revoked on medical grounds fell by four per cent, from 61,563 down to 59,163. However, at the same time, there was a 15% increase in notifications to the DVLA of drivers that may have a medical condition that affects their ability to drive; up to 200,289 from 173,975 in 2016.

The claimed increase in people driving despite being unfit to do so raises questions about the current system, which was updated with new advice some 18 months ago that gave GPs the right to advise the DVLA (DVA in Northern Ireland) if a patient is unfit to drive but continues to do so if it may “expose others to a risk of death or serious harm”.  This followed a 2016 report that accused the DVLA of major failings in assessing people’s fitness to drive.

The research also found the majority (80%) of doctors believe it would be beneficial if the DVLA routinely informed them of the outcome of an enquiry assessing a patients’ fitness to drive, so they could monitor if a patient claimed to still be driving after a licence revocation or refusal.

Gus Park, managing director of motor insurance at Direct Line Group, commented: “When doctors believe the system for ensuring that only medically fit drivers are on the road is broken we need to stand up and take notice. We need to educate motorists about conditions that could impair their ability to drive and encourage them to seek a professional medical opinion.”

Commenting on the research, a DVLA spokesperson said: “The medical standards for driving are continuously reviewed and updated to reflect changes in medical practice and relevant legislation. The fact that we are continuing to receive notifications from medical professionals and drivers themselves is a sign that people are doing the right thing and letting us know.

“When we receive a notification an investigation takes place based on the evidence available and we make a decision as to whether the driver should retain their licence, have a shorter-term licence or have their licence revoked.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.