There were embarrassing revelations last week about how the DVLA assesses people’s fitness to drive, after a watchdog said lives were being wrecked by the agency’s failings to meet its obligations.
It highlighted eight complaints, in which people with complex medical conditions and disabilities were “unfairly left without driving licences, sometimes for several years”, because the DVLA was making flawed decisions and communicating poorly.
One HGV driver had to wait for 17 months to have a decision to remove his licence reversed after he had a heart attack and yet was symptom free.
He lost his business in the process.
A piano teacher had a stroke and then recovered, but the DVLA decided to withhold her licence “for years”, leaving her socially isolated, distressed and unable to work.
In another case, a doctor informed the agency that their patient suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and as a result he struggled to keep up with paperwork and this should be taken into account if he was ever late submitting documents.
The DVLA took this as a sign they should move swiftly and promptly removed his licence.
As a result of these investigations by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, it reported that the DVLA’s fitness to drive tests were not fit for purpose and the way it handles complaints was poor and defensive.
The ombudsman acknowledged the DVLA had accepted the findings and taken steps to address “some” of the failures identified, but it adds that further action needs to be taken.
It recommends that it should improve the way it communicates with licence holders and medical professionals and produce robust standards, but the DVLA does not accept this.
The ombudsman also says other people will have been affected by its failings and therefore it should put in place appropriate arrangements to put things right, including financial compensation, but the agency has become defensive again and rejects this recommendation too.
Instead the DVLA insists it has made improvements, apologised for the way customer cases were handled and pointed out that the eight cases date back to 2009, which was ages ago, and since then it’s actually done quite a good job thank you very much.
If you have committed a motoring offence due to an undisclosed medical condition contact our specialist motoring solicitors for advice on 0800 046 3066