The Guardian has accused the DfT of suppressing a report that suggests thousands of drivers are unfit to be on the road because of failing health and disability.
The study found that doctors, nurses and other health professionals are failing to stop people driving when they are a danger to themselves and other road users. The problem is growing because of the ageing population, the report claims.
Researchers discovered that only one in four motorists with a condition that could affect their fitness to drive had received correct advice from a health worker.
The study, ‘The Attitudes of Health Professionals to Giving Advice on Fitness to Drive’, called for better training of health workers, regular eye tests for all drivers and restricted driving licences for certain medical conditions. The report was submitted in 2008 but appeared on the DfT’s website two years later, with no official publicity, according to the Guardian.
The research project was commissioned by the DfT from a team at Warwick University. The team surveyed medical schools, health workers and drivers with medical conditions and used a range of research techniques including deployment of an actor pretending to be unfit to drive. Only one in five health professionals gave the actor any advice on driving.
Carol Hawley, a psychologist who led the research team, said there was confusion among health workers over who was responsible for telling drivers they should stay off the road. She said: "The typical response we found was, ‘Yes, we know it’s important, we know somebody should be doing it, but we don’t think it should be us’."
She added that leaving the onus on motorists to own up to a serious condition was a recipe for inaction.
The DfT denied suppressing the report. Its spokeswoman said some of the 15 key recommendations had been acted upon as part of a continuing dialogue between the DVLA and leaders of the health professions.
A DVLA spokesperson said: "We have taken steps to address the issues set out in this report to ensure that those working in the health services have the tools they need to provide clear advice on fitness to drive.”
Click here to read the full Guardian report.
Click here to read the DfT study.