Road traffic rules governing the ability of elderly people to drive should be strengthened, according to a family whose mother suffered serious injuries after she was struck by a car driven by an 85-year-old man.
The family of Carmel Daly (74), who died six days after being injured in a two-car collision, told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that they had no wish to see farmer John Sexton jailed in relation to the collision but said it highlighted the need for vigilance in relation to older drivers.
Sexton of Sunview, Courtmacsherry, Bandon, Co Cork, pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to a charge of dangerous driving causing serious harm to Ms Daly at Tulligee, Clonakilty, on the N71 on February 9th.
Ms Daly's daughter, Imelda Hurley said in a victim impact statement that the case highlighted the need for strengthening rules governing elderly drivers and the need for families to take responsibility for elderly relatives to ensure they do not drive if they are no longer capable.
“We understand that this offence can carry a jail term but we have no interest in seeing John Sexton going to jail as he never set out to cause the accident and it certainly will not bring Mam back to us,” said Ms Hurley.
“However, we would strongly urge that the rules and regulations regarding senior drivers should be looked at very closely and they should be strengthened to ensure that all aspects of a person’s driving ability are tested including judgement and reactions before renewal of licences are made.
“We would also urge that all families should take responsibility and step in when their elderly family members are failing and make an effort to maintain the freedom and mobility of their elder family members when they are no longer able to drive.”
Garda Brendan Cahill told the court that Ms Daly was a front-seat passenger in a Hyundai car being driven by her daughter Loreto Daly O'Regan from Rosscarbery towards Clonakilty when the defendant emerged from a side road in his Isuzu 4x4.
Ms Daly O’Regan saw his vehicle come over the white line at the stop sign and she presumed he was going to stop but he kept coming on to the main road and drove directly into the path of her car making it impossible for her to avoid a collision. Her mother, Ms Daly suffered a fracture to her femur in the crash.
Ms Daly died six days later in Cork University Hospital and prosecution barrister Siobhán Lankford said that the incident would have been “a trigger for a cascade of events but the injuries sustained in the accident itself were not fatal”.
Error of judgment
Sexton apologised for his error of judgment and said he was deeply remorseful for what had happened and he had not driven since, while his daughter Rosemary apologised to the Daly family.
Defence barrister Shay Roche pointed out that Sexton had no previous convictions of any kind and he pointed out that there were no aggravating factors such as speed or alcohol or use of a mobile phone as he urged Judge Gerard O'Brien to be as lenient as possible.
The judge noted the Daly family did not want to see Sexton jailed and he also noted that he had pleaded guilty, co-operated fully with gardaí and had previously been of blameless character with no conviction of any sort.
“I see nothing to be gained for society or for the Daly family by putting Mr Sexton in prison,” said the judge as he fined him €3,000 and disqualified him from driving for 10 years before extending his sympathies to the Daly family on the loss of their mother.