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Motorist who was told not to drive due to failing eyesight admits killing cyclist

John Johnstone ignored optometrist’s warning and said he did not see Hanno Garbe before fatal crash

A motorist who had been told by an optometrist not to drive because he had cataracts in both eyes has admitted killing a cyclist and said that he did not see the rider before the fatal crash.

John Johnstone, aged 84, will be sentenced next month after pleading guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of 57-year-old Hanno Garbe near Aviemore in March last year, reports STV News.

Sales manager Mr Garbe, who had moved to the Aviemore area with his wife Dagmar in 2007, was taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness where he died from his head injuries.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard that after the fatal crash on 4 March 2019, Johnstone, from Kingussie, failed a roadside eye test.

Police found that he was only able to read a registration plate from a distance of 4.8 metres, rather than the 20 metres required by law.

Johnstone, who appeared at the hearing via video link from Inverness Sheriff’s Court, also told officers when interviewed that he had not seen Mr Garbe prior to the collision on the B9152 near Loch Alvie.

The court heard that in October 2018 optometrist Ellen Torrance had told him following an annual eye test at Specsavers in Inverness that he must not drive due to his deteriorating eyesight.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC told the High Court: “The accused was aware that he could not drive until after a successful cataract operation. As at March 4 in 2019 he had not had the operation.”

“He stated he was struggling with watching television, following the ball when playing golf and also driving.”

“At the conclusion of the eye examination Ellen Torrance told the accused that he had a big drop in his distance vision and a cataract in his right and left eyes.”

“She concluded the accused did not meet the driving standards and told the accused he could not lawfully drive, must not drive and must notify DVLA of his condition.”

Two months later, Johnstone attended an eye clinic at Raigmore Hospital which resulted in the same conclusion.

Lord Fairley, the judge presiding over the case, placed an interim driving ban on Johnstone and has called for reports pending sentencing next month.

As in England & Wales, while medical professionals such as GPs can advise someone to surrender their driving licence to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency as a result of health conditions including poor eyesight, they cannot compel them to do so.

In its webpage entitled Surrendering your driving licence, the government says:

There’s no legal age at which you must stop driving. You can decide when to stop, but medical conditions can affect your driving and might mean you have to give up your driving licence until you can meet the medical standards of fitness to drive again.

When you decide to stop driving or are advised by your doctor to stop you’ll need to tell DVLA and send them your licence.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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