The sentencing judge yesterday said the case raised questions for society about elderly drivers.
Denis O’Driscoll, of Cashelmore, Bandon, was given a one-year suspended jail term and a 10-year driving ban after he pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving, causing serious bodily harm, to Olivia Keating at Tillig, Ballinascarthy, Co Cork, on June 2, 2016.
Inspector Fergal Foley said the driver had led an unblemished life and was active in his local community as a farmer and GAA member.
The elderly driver believed a fly had gone into his eye, causing a momentary lapse in concentration. At the time, he did not realise he had been involved in an accident and left the scene. However, he went to his son’s house and his son drove back to find there had been an accident and alerted gardaí.
Ms Keating sustained a closed head injury that resulted in her being in an induced coma for two and a half weeks. She also suffered multiple fractures.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said it was questionable whether the 84-year-old should have been driving at all at the time. Inspector Foley said Mr O’Driscoll was certified to drive.
The judge said: “It is a very common and increasing problem in this country. I know if a person is not allowed to drive they are virtually imprisoned but sometimes the consequences [of driving] are significant.”
The victim, in a written statement about her injuries, said she did not want to see the defendant jailed.
Dermot Sheehan, defending, said: “He wishes to apologise. He has not driven since this event. He is farming all his life. He will not drive again. He has had 65 years of driving without any previous complaint.”
The judge said a fit, active woman had been seriously affected but is particularly determined because of her involvement in sport.
“I questioned whether he should have been on the road at all,” the judge said. “But saying that, he did nothing wrong on the road. He was certified. He was properly licensed. The problem disclosed by his age is more a societal problem than one I can deal with. But it is definitely a problem and it will increase in the future.”