Reading posts on an online forum, there was a discussion about a man who’d driven four miles along a motorway in the wrong direction.
“How could he be fit to drive and yet make such an awful and devastating mistake?”
“How come he’d still got a licence to drive a car?”
That was the tone of the comments.
I didn’t know the details of that particular incident but around the same time, similar circumstances led to tragic event near to home and resulted in an innocent motor cyclist being killed, which I had to say captured my attention. After all it isn’t that easy to get onto the motorway and drive against oncoming traffic without being aware that you’ve messed up big time and need to take evasive action. Unless…
I thought I’d check with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency online, just to see whether Cognitive Impairment was listed as a health issue that the DVLA need to be informed about - and there it was.
Further reading informed me that if the DVLA hadn’t been notified about my Cognitive Impairment and I was involved in an accident, I could be fined up to £1000 - whether the accident was my fault or not. Now that is a statement that focuses the mind somewhat, especially as I’m not in possession of £1000.
I looked back through all the correspondence I’d received from the Memory Clinic. The only reference to my driving skills was at the end of the last letter I’d been sent, back in October 2015 where it said.
“I have no concerns about this lady driving at this time.”
What I should have been told, in my humble opinion, is that I needed to inform the DVLA of my diagnosis as soon as possible. That never happened and this appears to be the accepted custom and practice. The onus is on the patient who, by osmosis, prior knowledge, or a light bulb moment which suddenly makes it crystal clear that this is the next step to be taken.
I don't consider that it would be asking too much to include a short sentence in that last letter to say that, "Mrs S has been advised that she has to notify the DVLA of her diagnosis."
I mean to say, give me a fighting chance for goodness sake.
I sat on my new found knowledge for a day or two but really I knew what I had to do, it’s just that the implication of my confession was the loss of my licence. Would that be so bad? My car is ancient and making some really weird noises which nobody seems to be able to hear but me. I was kind of hoping that the car would make the decision for me.
I navigated the DVLA website for the relevant forms and after three attempts I managed to complete them online, not without a great deal of shouting at the screen. I then discovered that I was unable to send them electronically. What!! Fax or print off and post, were the only two options I could see, though admittedly I was still in shock at the realisation that I was going to have to buy a postage stamp which these days requires taking out loan.
I had a reply from the DVLA virtually by return post.
“Leave seven working days then make an appointment with your GP. If you haven’t seen your doctor within six weeks then your driving licence will be revoked.”
The likelihood of complying with that command, given that Christmas came in the middle, was unrealistic but I turned up to make the appointment at the first opportunity.
I handed the receptionist the letter with all the information on it, plus the name of the Doctor that I was required to see.
‘We have no available appointments until the 10th January.’
‘I’ll have to take that one then and risk my licence being revoked.’
She looked at me blankly with that stare that said. ‘I really couldn’t care less – take it or leave it.’
I took the card and read it before I left the queue.
‘This isn’t the doctor I’m supposed to see,’ I said. ‘I don’t know this doctor and he doesn’t know me.’
What I wanted to say was.
‘Looking at the name, I suspect this doctor has an accent which I won’t have the opportunity to tune into and that puts me at a disadvantage straight away, especially as this doctor will no doubt be giving me a memory test.’
There were now people behind me, waiting with stifled impatience.
‘Well, it’s the earliest date we can give you’, she replied. ‘We probably haven’t got one for your preferred doctor for ages.’
‘Would you check his availability please? He’s the GP who made the initial referral and the doctor named by the DVLA.’
With an audible sigh she turned back to her screen.
‘The earliest appointment we can offer you is not until the 11th January at 10.00am.’
One day later than the original appointment. I had the good sense to resist the urge to point this out and thanked her profusely.
I successfully grovelled to the DVLA who accepted that I could not achieve the impossible.
To be continued.