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Coroner recommends stronger enforcement when people told to quit driving for health reasons

A Coroner has recommended that stronger enforcement action is undertaken when older people are told to stop driving by doctors.

The recommendation comes as part of a finding by Coroner Michael Robb, who investigated the death of Malcolm Fergus Gillanders-Ryan in a crash on April 12, 2017.

The crash involved two utes and took place on Broadlands Road near Taupo, the report said.

Mr Gillanders-Ryan was found the have drifted across the centre line on a slight bend in a 100km/h area - speed, visibility, road conditions, mechanical faults, alcohol and fatigue were all ruled out as factors.

The report said he had previously been told by his doctor that he had Alzheimer's disease, as well as other pre-existing medical conditions, and that if he wanted to continue driving he would need to pass an occupational therapy driving assessment.

"Although Mr Gillanders-Ryan was upset at not being able to drive, he did not indicate that he would drive, therefore he was given the opportunity to voluntarily surrender his licence," the report reads.

"It was DHB practice at the time of Mr Gillanders-Ryan's treatment to allow a client to comply voluntarily with surrendering their licence.

"Therefore, no action was taken by any medical professional to inform police for NZTA that Mr Gillanders-Ryan should not be driving and that his licence should be cancelled.

"This practice has now been changed."

The Coroner wrote that "it is difficult for a doctor to know whether a patient's assurances that they will not drive can be relied on.

"The removal of the ability to drive is a significant loss of independence and may be the subject of promises made that are subsequently not kept.

"I also consider the difficult position that family members are placed in when it falls to them to prevent a loved one from driving, rather than NZTA ensuring that a license is revoked or suspended."

A recommendation has been made to NZTA to formally incorporate the Coroner's findings, and they responded that they have accepted that recommendation.

"The Ministry of Transport acknowledges that under section 18 of the Land Transport Act 1998, medical practitioners are only required to inform the NZ Transport Agency if they believe that a licence holder will continue to operate a motor vehicle after being advised that they should surrender their licence because of a mental or physical condition," their response said.

"I have asked that this proposal be investigated as part of the Ministry's review of the transport regulatory regime which is currently planned to begin in 2019.