A judge in the case of an 84-year-old driver who hit a cyclist without realising has warned more elderly motorists will be involved in crashes as Ireland ages.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin questioned whether Denis O'Driscoll should have been driving at all, even though he had been certified to do so, when he hit Olivia Walsh (40) on the main Bandon-to-Clonakilty Road in Co Cork .
O'Driscoll, a farmer from Cashelmore, Bandon, Co Cork, pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to careless driving causing serious bodily harm to Ms Walsh at Ballinascarthy on the morning of June 2nd, 2016.
Insp Fergal Foley told the court that O'Driscoll had said he believed a fly had got into his eye, causing a momentary lapse in his concentration as he drove along the road.
O’Driscoll only realised he had hit Ms Walsh when he got home and his son saw the damage to his car. The court heard his son drove back along his route and came across the scene of the crash. He then notified gardaí to interview his father, who co-operated fully with their investigation.
Insp Foley said O'Driscoll was active in his local community as a member of the IFA, Bandon Show and Ballinascarthy GAA. He had an unblemished record and had never come to the attention of gardaí until this collision.
Ms Walsh suffered serious injuries and was in an induced coma for two weeks following the collision. She spent a month in hospital and is still recovering. However, she has expressed a wish that O’Driscoll not be jailed for his offence, the court heard.
Defence counsel Dermot Sheehan SC said his client had not driven since the crash and will not drive again. "He has had 65 years of driving without any previous complaint."
Judge Ó Donnabháin said it was a cause of concern to him that O’Driscoll could hit someone without realising. “Given his age, it’s questionable whether he should have been driving,” he said. “I don’t care whether he was certified to drive.”
While he was aware that taking elderly people off the road made them “virtual prisoners” in their homes, the issue of older motorists being involved in crashes “is a problem that will increase in the future”.
Judge Ó Donnabháin gave O’Driscoll a 12-month suspended sentence and disqualified him from driving for 10 years.