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Changes to fitness to drive rules suggested following Glasgow bin lorry crash

Date: 08 December 2015   |   Author: Daniel Puddicombe

Changes to fitness to drive rules have been suggested to avoid incidents like the Glasgow bin lorry collision in 2014. (stock image)

An enquiry into the 2014 Glasgow bin lorry crash has called on the Government to shake up the rules surrounding the non-disclosure of medical information.

The inquiry determined that the collision may not have happened had the driver - Harry Clarke - not lied about his medical history.

During evidence at the inquiry, it was revealed Mr Clarke had suffered an episode of neurocardiogenic syncope - a black-out - before the 2014 crash.

He passed out at the wheel while the bin lorry was on Queen Street in Glasgow city centre. Almost 20 seconds later, the vehicle came to rest against the Millennium Hotel in George Square, leaving six people dead and 17 injured.

Sheriff John Beckett said Clarke could have "told the whole truth" to his doctors about this incident, "refrained from continuing to drive buses" and provided "true and accurate information about his medical history" in later health questionnaires and assessments.

Other precautions relate to doctors advising Clarke to notify the DVLA and clarifying the circumstances of his blackout "before concluding that he had suffered a simple faint" after he passed out while driving a bus in 2010.

In the report, Sheriff Beckett outlined 19 recommendations to reduce the chances of similar incidents occurring in the future.

The recommendations include a suggestion for the Department for Transport to establish whether doctors should be given an obligation, or greater freedom to report fitness to drive concerns to the DVLA, while there is also a call for the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, to consult on how the DVLA should obtain the information to make licensing decisions.

Beckett also called on the DVLA to change its policies so information from third parties, such as the police, could be investigated, while he added that the Government agency should "redouble its efforts to raise awareness of the implications of medical conditions for fitness to drive".

"We are carefully considering the recommendations in the report," the DVLA said.

In his report, Sheriff Beckett concluded: "The most effective measure to prevent such an occurrence would be to seek to avoid drivers becoming incapacitated at the wheel."

"Responsibility in that regard lies with drivers themselves and the DVLA," Beckett continued.

"It may well be that the single most useful outcome of this inquiry would be to raise awareness of the dangers involved in driving if subject to a medical condition which could cause the driver to lose control of a vehicle."

Road safety charity Brake welcomed the proposals: We fully support the recommendations made by the Sheriff. We urge all drivers to ensure they fully disclose any medical condition that prevents them driving safely to the DVLA, or the DVA in Northern Ireland," said Gary, director of communications and campaigns for Brake.

"We recently backed draft strengthened guidelines for doctors from the General Medical Council on reporting medically "unfit" drivers to the driver agencies, but it's clear more action needs to be taken, some at government level, to stop another tragedy like this from happening again," he added.