Peterborough’s coroner has called for more safeguarding and checks for elderly drivers after a 97 year old woman died in a head on crash when she drove the wrong way on the A47.
Phylis Burton died on October 13 last year on the road near Bretton after a head on collision with a car being driven by Zoe Rowell. Mrs Rowell suffered life changing injuries in the crash, and spent more than ten weeks in hospital.
At an inquest into Mrs Burton’s death on Monday, coroner David Hemming, recording a finding of death caused by a road traffic collision, said: “I propose to write to the Department of Transport including the finding of this inquest.
“It is the second fatality I have worked on in seven days involving an elderly driver. The other one involved a driver driving on the wrong side of the road.
“It is clear there have been some issues raised with regard to competence tests for some drivers after the age of 70.
“The issue has been dealt with in Crown Court. One judge said it was a matter for the families to monitor competence of relatives.
“By bringing my finding to the attention of the Department for Transport, we will see if there should be some checks and safeguards in the system for drivers after the age of 70.”
The inquest heard how Mrs Burton had been driving for four and a half miles on the wrong side of the road at about 11am on October 13 - which was her birthday. Other drivers said they saw her drive the wrong way round the roundabout at Castor before heading onto the wrong carriageway.
Witnesses described motorists flashing the lights and beeping their horns to alert her to her mistake.
PC Stephen Andrews, who presented an accident report to the hearing, said Mrs Rowell had been travelling behind a large car in the moments before the crash. When the car in front of her moved into the inside lane to avoid a crash, Mrs Rowell was left with just 2.5 seconds to react - when a normal reaction time for a driver is about 1.5 to two seconds.
PC Andrews said: “She had insufficient time to react.”
Mrs Burton died at the scene after suffering catastrophic injuries.
PC Andrews said it was possible Mrs Burton had thought the road had been a single carriageway road, which is why she stayed in the right hand lane for so long - and evidence showed she had slowed down near the point of impact, when traffic had become heavier - possibly making her realise she was on the wrong side of the road.
The inquest was also told her driving licence had expired the previous day. Drivers aged over 70 are required to renew their licence every three years, and Mrs Burton had not done so.
The hearing heard how Mrs Burton had been involved in an incident on the A1 months before the fatal collision.
A statement from PCSO Michael Latimer was read, which said he was off duty on March 27 2015, when he was driving north on the A1 at Wittering. He saw the red Daihatsu being driven by Mrs Burton travelling slowly along the carriageway, when it suddenly turned across the traffic, facing right.
Mr Latimer said: “I managed to stop, and waved down two lorries, who managed to stop in time. I went up to the lady and asked what was happening. She seemed confused and said she wanted to go home.”
Mr Latimer said he escorted the woman to the side of the road, and moved her car out of the carriageway, before explaining the route to her home in Wingfield, Orton Goldhay a number of times. He also contacted police control room to ask for a welfare check to be carried out to ensure she had arrived home safely.