Injured woman says mental health should have same bearing as vision and hearing for driving licenses

Maeve Kelly, who Gerard Roan drove into in 2016, wants mental health issues to have the same bearing as vision and hearing problems when it comes to a driver’s eligibility to drive.

Injured woman says mental health should have same bearing as vision and hearing for driving licenses

A woman scarred for life after a man suffering severe mental health problems crashed his car into hers has called for a review of the issuing of driving licenses.

Maeve Kelly, who Gerard Roan

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She also wants guidelines around the declaration of extreme mental health conditions to be backed by legislation.

And she wants people with severe mental problems to have their license eligibility to be assessed at frequent intervals.

On Monday, a jury heard in Mr Roan’s inquest the fact that he was allowed to drive was “like giving a gun to a child, he didn’t know what he was at”.

This was according to his brother John, who had warned the HSE he would kill or be killed just weeks before he drove into Mrs Kelly’s car..

The 40-year-old had a history of “severe and enduring mental illness” and was in the care of Roscommon Mental Health Services at the time.

Monday’s inquest heard he “turned his lights off” and swerved suddenly into oncoming traffic and collided head on with a car driven by Mrs Kelly around 11.20pm on March 20, 2016.

The 44-year-old and the teenage daughter with her say they saw his car “come straight for us” and that he was “following” them as they tried to avoid him.

They miraculously survived after Mrs Kelly took evasive action seconds before the crash 2km from Roscommon town.

They both sustained serious injuries and remain badly scarred to this day.

Mrs Kelly told the Irish Examiner: “If I can’t see or hear properly or suffer from epilepsy, I can’t drive.

But if I suffer from severe and unresolved mental health issues, I can and that’s not right.

“If I can prevent one person from being harmed the way myself and my daughter were when Gerard drove into us, I will try.”

And she added: “I have asked the Road Safety Authority to look into this.”

The AA’s Director of Consumer Affairs Conor Faughnan said: “It is reasonable people suffering from (certain) medical conditions should require a doctor’s note to allow them to drive. It does feel like something we could do better in Ireland.

“Maybe we could learn from the awful event that occurred and from other jurisdictions. It is a desperately sad event, and if we can learn something from it, we certainly should.”

Currently, Irish and EU legislation requires a driver to advise their driver licensing authority of any long-term or permanent injury or illness that may affect their safe driving ability.

Illnesses listed include diabetes, epilepsy, strokes, and chronic neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease.

Drivers are also supposed to report vision and or hearing disabilities and serious psychiatric illness or mental health problems.

These are supposed to include “personality defects or disorders leading to seriously impaired judgement, behaviour or adaptability”.

However, not all medical conditions covered in the RSA’s Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines are also underpinned by legislation.

Those that are covered relate to cardiac conditions, diabetes, vision and epilepsy.

Mental health is not listed in a legal disclaimer attached to the RSA's guidelines.

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