A Lincolnshire-based motorcyclist who was involved in a serious road traffic accident has spoken out in support of a petition that aims to make it compulsory for drivers over 70 years old to retake their driving test.
Karl Hargreaves sustained a life changing brain injury when an elderly woman fell asleep at the wheel of her car, causing her to veer on to the wrong side of the road and collide with stationary traffic. He hopes that sharing his story will help to raise awareness of this highly debated topic.
Karl doesn’t remember anything from his accident, which happened in May 2015. He was thrown from his motorcycle as a result of a five-car pile-up and stopped breathing at the scene. He was fortunately revived by passing witness, Andrew Hull, but sustained a number of serious injuries including two broken legs, a broken shoulder, elbow, ribs and a damaged nervous system as well as a severe brain injury.
Spending four months in hospital and six months at Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre put Karl’s family under a lot pressure. However, with the support of the team at Minster Law, Karl was able to focus on his recovery and cover the cost of rehabilitation with the interim payments secured by his solicitor, David Sears.
Two years on, Karl still struggles with his sleep, balance and dizziness and has been unable to return to work
Karl returned to his role in the RAF on a gradual return to work programme in 2016, but his injuries meant that he could only manage four weeks of working reduced hours before being medically signed off from duty. Two years on, Karl still struggles with his sleep, balance and dizziness and has been unable to return to work. He is currently waiting to hear if he will be medically discharged from the RAF.
The 69-year-old driver who caused Karl’s accident was sentenced to six months imprisonment (suspended for two years), a two-month night time curfew and was disqualified from driving for three years. Before she returns to the road, she has also been ordered to take an extended retest. However, Karl still feels that more should and could be done to prevent accidents like his happening in the future.
Karl said: “My brain injury has completely changed my life and I’m a totally different person now. I can be really short tempered and have very little patience. One of the most challenging aspects of my injury has been mental fatigue and I feel physically exhausted all the time. I have no energy or motivation to do anything and trying to think outside of the box and into the future is really difficult.
“In my mind, it feels like the driver who caused the accident has got away lightly and it’s me who has been given the life sentence – her punishment doesn’t make any difference to my quality of life. The damage to my body has left me with constant aches and pains, weakness, and I’m unable to continue the active lifestyle I lived before the accident – I can’t get back on a motorcycle because I haven’t got the strength to swing my leg over.
“I’m fully supportive of any petition that helps to ensure aging drivers are retested on their capabilities on the road”
“Nothing can change what has happened to me now, but I’m forever grateful to David Sears and the rest of the team at Minster Law as well as the rehabilitation team who have been absolutely fantastic. They’ve all worked so hard to ensure I don’t have to worry about mine and my family’s financial stability while I work through my recovery, and there is no way I’d have been able to do any of this without their help.
“I’ve experienced first-hand what can happen when things go wrong on the road and if my story, and the stories of others like me, can help raise awareness of what careless driving can do to someone’s life, then that’s something. I’m fully supportive of any petition that helps to ensure aging drivers are retested on their capabilities on the road, before they get back in the driving seat.”
The petition for age-appropriate retesting every three years after a driver turns 70 was created by widower Ben Brooks-Dutton, who lost his wife, Desreen, when an 85-year-old driver mounted the pavement at 54mph in a 20mph zone. The petition has now hit more than 252,000 signatures but he needs 300,000 before it will be considered by the Department for Transport.