Senior Sergeant David Tierney … there have been fatal accidents in the South Burnett caused by “medical episodes”

July 1, 2020

Driving is not a right … it’s a privilege, officer-in-charge of Kingaroy Police, Senior Sergeant David Tierney, has reminded motorists.

He has urged drivers with medical conditions – and their GPs – to take the decision-making process about driving more seriously.

Snr Sgt Tierney said police can issue “show cause” notices to people whom they believe should not be driving.

He pointed to several fatal crashes on South Burnett roads that had been caused by “medical episodes”.

There was understandable pressure on GPs to issue certificates to drivers – especially in rural areas.

“I understand the pressures on doctors but how are they going to feel if there is an accident?” Snr Sgt Tierney said.

Everyone aged 75 and over who holds a Queensland driver licence must carry a current “Medical Certificate for Motor Vehicle Driver Form” at all times when driving.

Snr Sgt Tierney said elderly drivers had slower reaction speeds but the medical safety issue was not a problem limited to older drivers.

“A lot of people are on medication, and they don’t take it seriously,” he said.

There are also many medical conditions which can affect a younger person’s fitness to drive.

An applicant for a driver licence or the holder of a driver licence has a legal obligation to notify the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) about a permanent or long-term medical condition, or a change in an existing medical condition as soon as they become aware of it.

Failure to notify may result in a fine of more than $8000.

TMR also urges medical practitioners to notify the Department if a medical condition poses a risk to public safety and they believe their patient won’t notify TMR; or if they believe their advice not to drive or follow recommended treatment will not be complied with.

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The safety reminder follows the handing down on June 26 of the Coroner’s findings into the fatal Ravenshoe Cafe explosion which occurred in 2015.

In this incident, a 60-year-old driver veered off a main road, mounted a gutter and crashed into an LPG gas cylinder, triggering an explosion and fire inside an adjoining cafe. Nineteen people suffered burns, including two women who died.

The inquest found the driver was not medically fit to drive at the time of the incident and should not have held an unconditional driver’s licence.

The Coroner recommended TMR form an interagency working group with relevant stakeholders, including Queensland Health and peak doctors’ associations, to develop an ongoing education and awareness campaign directed at all Queensland medical practitioners to educate them about the pathways that exist to report patients to the driver licencing authority.

It was also recommended the working group review the current standards and guidelines in respect of continuity of care, discharge, and handovers between doctors and patients, doctors and doctors, and hospitals and GPs; and that consideration be given to a community campaign targeted at drivers, reminding them of their obligations to immediately report to TMR any medical events which may impact on their fitness to drive.