Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

dangerous driving

My wife was killed twenty-five months ago today, and since that day, despite the fact that I have unashamedly spoken out about my grief, I have remained respectfully tight-lipped about what I believed to be its cause. Well, this afternoon an elderly gentlemen was charged with causing her death by dangerous driving. What follows is my statement and, with respect, it is all I wish to say on the matter for now. 

What happened on 10 November 2012 was no doubt a tragedy for all parties involved and no result from the subsequent trial could ever possibly have remedied the pain felt by its many victims. Between us all we have suffered the loss of family; physical and mental injury; the demise of health; the pain and confusion of grief; and the consequences, one would assume, of feelings of guilt.

However, I can only speak with absolutely confidence of the way my family and I have felt over the past two years.

The process and timescale of this trial, I believe, were lengthened and made more complex and painful by the sheer number of obstacles placed in the way of the prosecution. It is my personal view that this would have all been over sooner had such obstructions been avoided.

I, of course, have no doubt that the defendant suffered – and is indeed still suffering – as a consequence of his undoubtedly unanticipated actions. That said, in my view, and judging by the degree of decency with which I was raised, at no time have we – my family and I – been shown any true signs of remorse or consideration through the defendant’s approach to this trial.

Perhaps remorse will follow, perhaps it won’t. For now, though, my family’s priority is to move past the damage caused, and to continue to do everything we can to support one another.

We especially intend to do our utmost to minimise the anguish and confusion suffered by my little boy, a four-year-old child who lost his mother through an act of dangerous driving when he had only just turned two.

I can wholeheartedly say that I can forgive an accident that happened that night in November 2012. Right now, however, I’m finding it very difficult to imagine how I’ll ever forget the lengths that I believe have been taken to try to avoid this case being heard in a timely and appropriate fashion. A case that could perhaps (in my mind at least) have concluded so much sooner and with so much more compassion, had it been handled more sensitively and with even the slightest degree of contrition.

With that very sentiment in mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many thousands of people who have indeed shown my family and me compassion, as well as sympathy, empathy and seemingly boundless support.

I don’t wish to spend the rest of my days shouldering the burden that can come with bitterness and anger. Instead I offer my heart to all of those who may be suffering in a similar way to my family, my friends and myself.

The final thing I wish to say is this: confusion killed my wife. The inability of an 83-year-old driver to distinguish the accelerator from the break of a car that he had been driving for over thirty years is the reason why my son will grow up without his mother.

Perhaps he had never had a motoring accident or incident before; perhaps his license was clean. But perhaps it is also time for us to question how fit certain individuals are to be on the road.

I appeal to anyone who might be concerned that it is time for their elderly or infirm friends or relatives to stop driving not to delay. I appeal to you all to do something about it before it’s too late. And when considering their potential risk on the road, it should not be about the manner with which they have generally operated a vehicle under low-stress conditions over a number of decades, but rather the response rates that they are likely to be able to apply when something actually goes wrong.

Perhaps they make you coffee when you asked for tea from time to time. Maybe they leave cat food out for the dog. Perhaps they have to run through half a dozen names before they finally land on yours. Maybe there are a number of so-called ‘senior moments’ that often evoke a smile.

Well I can tell you one thing for sure: it’s hard to smile when an 83-year-old man confuses an accelerator for a break and in doing so kills your 33-year-old wife.

The fact is the defendant had a clean driving licence at the time and with that came his right to drive. But evidently rights can sometimes cause wrongs. And sadly for my family this wrong can never, ever be put right.

For now I have nothing else to add. I just ask that my family and I are given a little space to try to recover from what we’ve been put through over the past two years.

Thank you all very much.

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36 comments on “dangerous driving

  1. Lorna Baker
    December 10, 2014

    Time Xx

    • ivy
      December 25, 2014

      HI, I have been deeply moved by your story. Have you ever thought of relocating to Africa (Kenya/Zambia) the outdoors and nature will do your son a lot of good.

  2. kiwigirl53
    December 10, 2014

    Very very well said, we all hope and pray that people take note.

  3. cara
    December 10, 2014

    So much love to you & your son. ♡♡

  4. Lonifoundherself
    December 10, 2014

    My heart breaks for you and your family.

  5. Majors
    December 10, 2014

    Hear, hear. There comes a time in people’s lives when they have to question if they’re still capable and safe (for them and others) to drive. My grandad took it upon himself to stop driving in his 70s. My father, who is now severely sight impaired, also took the decision not to drive any longer when his eyesight started going downhill – before the doctors advised him to. My car was once involved in a minor accident with a 90 year old man who crossed two lanes of traffic without even looking. He had a homemade contraption to help him reach the pedals. Elderly people are proud but that shouldn’t cost lives.

    I wish you all the best in your continued journey.

  6. Wife After Death
    December 10, 2014

    A brilliant, heartbreaking and dignified statement. I continue to be in awe of you Ben. Very best wishes, Lucie. X

  7. Wife After Death
    December 10, 2014

    A brilliant, dignified and heartbreaking statement. I continue to be in awe of you Ben. Very best wishes, Lucie x

  8. susipet
    December 10, 2014

    My heart goes out to you and yours

  9. Michelle Twin Mum
    December 10, 2014

    Thank you for sharing, nothing I can say will help but I’ll always remember that message and if I ever feel anyone I know is showing concerning signs I’ll talk to them about their driving. Mich x

  10. caz
    December 10, 2014

    There are no words, Ben. I fully agree with you on all aspects of ensuring people are fit to drive. At the other end of the scale my 8 year old sister was killed by a 17 year old ‘L’ plate motorcyclist driving too fast, irresponsibly and not able to control the motorbike he was legally able to drive. 32 years later we still struggle to come to terms with her death.

  11. rhoneen
    December 10, 2014

    💕

  12. notabowlofcherries
    December 11, 2014

    My heart goes out to you and your son:)

  13. Dorothy Schwarz
    December 11, 2014

    did the driver get no punishment. I would have liked him banned from any transport except walking for the rest of his life
    love, d

  14. Annie Hitch
    December 11, 2014

    My family have been trying to stop my aunt in her 80s, who lives alone and a long way from us, from driving because we feel she is not safe. We and many of her friends have told her this but she just says she will only drive locally. She is fiercely independent. This is not good enough. We have reported our concerns to the DVLA under a scheme where you can anonymously or not, register concern about a named individual. However, after doing that we have no right to information about what if anything is being done. We have very limited access to her GP because of “patient confidentiality”. Bar physically taking away her keys we are finding this process fraught with difficulty. She thinks she is fine and to argue otherwise has to be done sensitively.. We can seek to have power of attorney over her health and welfare to take the decision for her but she has to agree to that..

    Don’t worry, we will work harder at this but there is the basis for a campaign here to give relatives access to what the DVLA process involves and how it is progressing and rights to discuss this issue with a relative’s GP.

    As you know so well, Ben, it takes only one short mistake to ruin – and take – lives.

    Annie Hitch

  15. Costas
    December 11, 2014

    remember this happening as I live nearby the place of the accident and I have followed your blog from time to time. You always write very powerfully, with restraint and compassion. Wish you and your son the best.

  16. Charlene
    December 11, 2014

    Well spoken, I’m sorry isn’t enough…My sister turned my mother in anonymously, My mom (87) remarks on so and so who is 90+ and STILL driving…and if she ever finds out who did this to her, she “will make them pay” I’m 67 and pray anyone who questions my driving to act. I may be angry, hurt or mad…but I don’t want to hurt anyone. Your son is Blessed for your handling of this in a way of protecting him, without hate…It’s been 60 months since I lost my husband and today has been a bad day…I dreamed of him again last night… I talked to him…I would almost stay in bed and sleep…if I could hold on to the dream. Our children are raised, but they miss him to….

  17. Elaine James
    December 11, 2014

    Ben what an amazing post. And brilliantly delivered best wishes to you all Elaine xx

  18. handikwani02
    December 11, 2014

    Well put Ben, I agree with you hundred percent it should not be about having a clean license it has to Be about the competence of the driver at that age. You are also right you have been through a lot in the past two years without adding to your pain the weight of resentment. I am sure you can never know how brilliantly you have coped with the whole issue. Those of us who have followed your journey are amazed at how you have held your son’s and your life together amidst the confusion of it all. Like I said in one of my comments to your blogs you are one unique person who is a great role model for Jackson. i wish you a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful new year full of opportunities.

  19. Heather Penney
    December 13, 2014

    Our family has, this year, suffered a similar situation. Our step father was killed by an elderly driver in July but prosecution seems to still be a long way off and the whole process is dragging on, despite there being many witnesses to what happened. We too have discussed the issue of elderly people being on the roads and the issue of starting a campaign about changing the system has also been talked about within the family. Just so wrong that the decision to keep a licence lies with the family, who can struggle to persuade an elderly person they are too old to be on the road. Or it is down to a gp who has known the family a long time and sometimes protect them a little. Please get in touch if you have got anywhere with thoughts on how to make changes, as our family would fully support such a campaign.
    We too wonder if the driver mistook the brake for the accelerator as he showed no signs of braking at all, but the reason is yet to be confirmed.

  20. Chris Dunne
    December 13, 2014

    Ben, I came across your article when it was posted by a friend from ‘Widowed and Young’. Unfortunately in 2011 I had a similar dreadful experience to you (life shattered by a 93 year old driver).

    I experienced similar delays with the court system and last summer the charge of death by dangerous driving was dropped at the last minute due to the acceptance it was ‘automatism’, a black out, and that she was not responsible for the accident.

    This year their was a ‘Fatal Accident Inquiry’ (the Scottish version of an inquest). The Sherif hosting it did seem to be asking the right questions and is due to issue his written judgement in ‘due course’ (the response I got early November when I asked about the progress of it).

    See my interview if you’ve not already: http://www.itv.com/news/central/update/2014-09-02/widow-calls-for-more-tests-for-elderly-drivers/

    Looking through my Facebook posts there’s a response from a work colleague that another colleagues brother in law was the victim of another elderly driver, something urgently needs to be done to remove unsafe elderly drivers from the road.

    Email me if you want to discuss further.

  21. Helen
    December 17, 2014

    I live at the corner of Cleve rd and west end lane, I heard the accident and feel compelled to say, this is a tragedy and was felt amongst the neighbourhood for a long time, every one was waiting for justice and to hear remorse from the elderly man, I’ve watched the local papers for news and not seen this, if I had caused this, I would be bereft with guilt and my apologies would never stop.

  22. Bea
    December 17, 2014

    Two years is quite an awfully long time to have this case drawn out. -glad that everything has finally been resolved, albeit with seemingly no remorse expressed from the responsible party. Like the poster above, I, too, had expected some form of contrition from the driver. The silence toward that end has been deafening.

  23. helen
    December 21, 2014

    I totally relate to the difficulty in getting someone who can no longer drive safely to accept this fact. I have had to support my dad through increasing forgetfulness, increasingly poor driving and eventually a diagnosis of Alzheimers. It was clear to me his driving was dangerous and at one point barely a week went by without a neighbour/ parishioner from church/ health care professional ringing me up and saying “your father must not drive anymore”. I plucked up the courage to tackle it with him, Cue anger, shouts, denials there was anything wrong, accusations I was “mad”. He simply didn t have the insight to see his driving was a disaster waiting to happen. I talked to his doctor, informed the DVLA (basically they send the driver a health questionnaire- Dad just tossed it aside). In the end I plumped for a slightly cowardly way out. I just didn’t help him renew his insurance. He didn’t have the werewithal to do it himself so eventually his car was pounded and destroyed. Cue anger, shouts etc. I cannot know for sure but I would suspect the man responsible for Ben’s wife’s death is maybe grappling with loss of ablities and early dementia and people just go into total self protection mode. Whatsmore they lose the intellectual and emotional ability to appreciate other people’s points of views , needs and rights not to be put in danger.

  24. sairachaudry
    December 22, 2014

    You write so well Ben, thank you for sharing. Losing someone is bad enough, but losing them to something so senseless is another thing altogether. My father was killed in a terrorist attack in September of last year and while I can’t claim to know exactly how you feel, I do know something of the feelings of injustice and senselessness that accompany the grief in such times. Your blog has actually given me the inspiration to write my own and I find it strangely cathartic. My thoughts are with you and your little boy.

  25. Danni
    December 22, 2014

    You are truly amazing Ben.

  26. luxefoodie
    December 22, 2014

    God help me, what does one comment given your statement, and the dignity and honesty with which you have faced this situation, not chosen- visited upon you. You humble me and in hearing today’s final verdict, the only saving grace is that the word final. Another chapter in you and your family’s life begins with it I hope, not to forget what’s gone, but to accept relief and find newness. God bless you. My heart aches for you. Good luck for 2015. You are in my prayers.

  27. Catherine
    December 23, 2014

    Well said. My heart goes out to you and your son. I hope you can find happiness again although life can never be quite the same. Having looked at my own driving license (I am 31 and qualified to drive cars, motorbikes and minibusses, and to tow trailers) I notice that my minibus license expires when I am 50, and I have to pass a medical to re-gain it. My car license is fine until much later. It honestly confuses me that I may, later in life, be deemed unfit to drive a minibus for health reasons, but still be allowed to drive a car with a heavy trailer. Maybe we need to think about getting car licenses looked on with the same seriousness as PCV licenses, as well as making DVLA medicals something that GPs are expected to do as a matter of routine (and making them responsible if they declare someone fit to drive when it is obvious at the time that they are not)

  28. Rob
    December 23, 2014

    Well written, admirable words. The issue of older/incapable drivers will steadily get worse due to increasing life spans (their brains are still deteriorating at largely same pace, we’re just finding more ways to stop/fix other things which would have led to death by natural causes)

    This issue is something that will have to be looked at by lawmakers one day. I find it uncomfortable letting GPs have authority in this area as their relationship with the patient can muddy the issue, it should be done by someone completely independent. There may be a slight issue getting politicians to tackle this, as older people do vote far more than the young.

  29. Andrea
    December 23, 2014

    Ben,

    There is no “right” to drive. One is given a licence to drive. It is incomprehensible how the DVLA simply renews these licences without stringent medical checks. Would anyone board a plane piloted by someone over 70 who has not gone through the most rigorous medical examination? Why then are we giving licences to use lethal weapons to people who are likely not to have excellent sight or reaction time?

    Vision Zero London has been set up with the aim to eradicate actions, customs and designs which cause death and serious injury.

    I have just written about the importance for victims of traffic violence to coalesce and transform our streets.
    http://www.visionzerolondon.org/2014/12/when-angel-smiles-at-you-and-when-she.html

    I hope you can join us. You have lot to offer. Feel free to write to me at andrea@visionzerolondon.org

  30. Dora
    December 24, 2014

    We are so sorry for your big lost. ..we pray that you will find some kind of peace and that you and your little prince will draw closer to God at this difficult time.You will be in our prayers and thoughts.

  31. Helene
    December 24, 2014

    Dear Ben,
    When my late dad, who had always been fond of cars and driving, reached his eighties and we noticed he no longer had the reflexes he once had, we all worried. You see, he had a terrible temper and was rather stubborn with it. He was also very proud. We all thought we would have a terrible time trying to ‘convince’ him he should maybe stop driving. One day, however, I am not quite sure what happened. Maybe he scared himself. Maybe he had been thinking about it without telling us. Anyway, one day, after putting the car in the garage after the weekly grocery shop, he handed the car keys to mum, who was sitting next to him, and said to her. ‘ Darling, I’ve had a wonderful life. I don’t want to end it doing something stupid ( He didn’t use the word ‘stupid’…) ‘I won’t be driving again.’
    I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful wife and your boy’s wonderful mother. I truly admire you for what you have done since then.

  32. teary
    January 17, 2015

    I so feel you. I’ve been through it. And with a little baby like yours. Except that I was younger and more introverted; barely a woman but a woman alone.

    Express yourself, yes.

  33. Nathalie
    January 27, 2015

    I send you and your son my love! …. All of it!

  34. PaulL
    February 8, 2015

    This month marked passage of my first year alone: six birthdays, a summer holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and a lonely wedding anniversary that, thankfully, no one mentioned. Her process was slow, but time was confused by my mind’s efforts spent mostly on hopes and medical visits than by marking days, which became a continuum of nows, instead. Death always arrives as life’s final coup de foudre, slipping past the hasps we set against it. I still wasn’t ready.

    The freight train nightmares are finally over – the ones in which I watched, helpless, frozen in place, as fate bore down on her. She slept restlessly at the end. I would drain excess fluid from her lungs so she could breathe again. Late nights, I sometimes reread her saved emails and shopping lists to remember where we’d been together, briefly fooling myself she might be waiting for me to turn in .

    Then, I’d forgotten our four children. Yes, I’d been cooking their dinners, combing hair. I went to school conferences solo, writing my wife’s name on parent sign-ins because she wanted to be there; reading notes she wrote so I’d know what to ask of their teachers. I was but her temporary stand-in, reporting back at bedside by evening if she was listening.

    I remind myself that now I’m the only parent. Mornings, I imagine I check for proper apparel on the girls, that breakfast is ready in time for the drive to school. In the family ritual of dinner – unchanged except with only five settings, now – I insist the presence of each. Our eldest claimed the open seat at the opposite end of the table. He chides the younger ones to abide their chores that I do instead, because these help keep me from thinking.

    When friends ask how I’m doing, I reply that I’m fine because the truth is too hard to talk about. Family remark how well I’m doing. Fatherhood’s the strand that binds me together and reminds me: shower. fold laundry. mop.

    Still, late nights when the kids are asleep, I sometimes reread her saved emails – unfold old handwritten shopping lists and pretend she’s waiting for me to turn in.

    • Nabbie
      November 7, 2015

      Paul

      I would love to say that I will keep you in my prayers, however I rarely pray now…if I did I would have done so.

      Your words have touched me such that I will definitely remember what has/was happening with you (as far as I can gain from your words) when you wrote them.

      Thank you for sharing what you have with us. I have learned a lot.

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