A weekly newspaper campaign launched after a teenager died at the hands of an 87-year-old driver who had failed an eyesight test has led to “life-saving” changes in government policy.
The Essex County Standard helped collect more than 45,000 signatures urging ministers to allow the confiscation of driving licences when the police believe the driver is medically unfit.
The campaign was spearheaded by Jackie McCord, who sought the paper’s support after her 16-year-old daughter Cassie was mown down and killed by an 87-year-old driver who mounted the pavement three days after failing a police eyesight test.
Now, road safety minister Stephen Hammond has said applications from the police to revoke the licences of medically-unfift drivers will be fast-tracked by the DVLA – meaning unfit drivers can be taken off the road within hours.
Specialist news writer and news editor at the Standard, Wendy Brading, said she was “thrilled” with the announcement.
“We are delighted, and so grateful that the Department for Transport have listened and responded. It is definitely going to save lives. Even if it’s just one, it will be worth it,” she said.
“If the police had had the opportunity to seize that driver’s licence in February 2011, then he would not have legally been able to get behind the wheel and Cassie would not have died.”
The new process will only initially be in force between 8am and 10pm on weekdays – but Cassie’s mother Jackie, with the support of the paper, has vowed to continue pushing for it to be introduced at weekends too.
The campaign was launched in August 2011, with the support of the Standard’s sister daily the Gazette – six months after Cassie died.
Three days before the accident, pensioner Colin Horsfall had driven into the exit of a petrol station in Colchester and then failed a police eye test.
He walked with a stick and used a zimmer frame but despite police sitting with him for two hours urging him to surrender his licence, he refused.
The police were in the process of asking the DVLA to revoke his licence when he decided to ignore advice and get behind the wheel anyway.
He died three months later.
Added Wendy: “We had support from all sorts of people.
“The amount of support from readers, from our MP, the police force, and just people on the street has been incredible. I think the tragic way Cassie was killed really touched people.
“Jackie has fought so hard to close this loophole in the law and I’m thrilled for her that it has paid off. She has been tireless – I have so much respect for her. We were just the conduit really.
“As the campaign continues we will of course support her all the way.”