Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

tell them

The eighty-five-year-old driver who killed my wife, Desreen, was jailed today for eighteen months for causing her death by dangerous driving. He was also banned from driving for life. I suspect he, his family and friends are feeling really quite dreadful right now, and, for what it’s worth, mine and I aren’t exactly celebrating either.

You see, I’ve had time to think since attending the trial and I’ve realised that you can punish a crime but you can’t transfer pain. Any suffering caused to the defendant as a result of his sentencing could in no way take away mine. I’ve since learned that, having suffered so much myself, I genuinely wish no hurt on any other person and I never wished a prison sentence on the driver, either.

In fact, I wasn’t even going to mention the sentencing on my blog at all. But then I reminded myself that justice for Desreen is best served not by a prison sentence but by trying to prevent similar unnecessary deaths from happening again in future. I keep hearing people say that they know someone who should probably give up driving but that they don’t know how to raise the issue with them. Well maybe I can help with that.

Tell them that the judge who sentenced the driver today said, ‘An elderly driver who knows, or should acknowledge, that he or she is losing his or her faculties is no less a danger than a drunken driver who knows the same.’

Tell them that the judge also explained that the defendant’s ‘lifetime of blameless driving is of no comfort to the Brooks-Dutton family,’ (and I assure you it really isn’t).

Tell them that the detective sergeant in charge of the prosecution said, ‘It is important for motorists to regularly monitor their driver behaviour and that of their elderly relatives to ensure that the roads are safe for all road users.’

Tell them that the once ‘blameless’ elderly driver suffered pedal confusion, which caused his car to be travelling at an average of fifty-four miles per hour in a twenty zone when he struck and killed my wife.

Tell them that the impact of this pedal confusion caused one of her shoes to fly off her feet as his speeding car hit her on the pavement where she was walking blamelessly with our then two-year-old son and me. Tell them that I had to keep looking at that shoe in the street on the night of her death and in photographs over the course of the subsequent trial.

Tell them that this is the last photo ever taken of my wife with our son together. Tell them that the paramedics on the scene later that evening had to cut off the jumper she is pictured wearing in order to be able to perform CPR on the pavement where she lay dying.

photo 2

Tell them that what happened was almost even more catastrophic and that the car that killed my wife almost killed our son too. Tell them that the collision investigator found a piece of the pushchair he is pictured in here in the street after the car skimmed it before mowing down his mother.


Tell them that the day after my wife was killed my son was upset that he couldn’t find his scooter. Tell them that’s because his scooter was found in the wreckage too.


Tell them that every time I look at my favourite picture of my wife and me together I get upset as I imagine how I lost the hat I am pictured wearing on the night of her death. Tell them that I’ve concluded that I must have inadvertently thrown it into the street as I pulled at my own hair through fear that she was going to die.

Ben & Des

Tell them they won’t be the only people who have to deal with the consequences of any potential injury or fatality that they might cause. Tell them the impact will be felt by more people than they can imagine including their own family and friends.

Tell them that the two-year-old boy who lost his mummy is now four and is still so angry and upset that she can’t come back. Tell them that he has suffered immeasurably from the trauma of that night. Show them this picture and tell them that this is him pictured with his beautiful mummy on his second birthday – the last one they would ever spend together.


Tell them that at thirty-one years old I was the happiest man alive when I married the love of my life. Tell them that I was utterly bereft when I lost her at thirty-three. Tell them I’m thirty-five now and depressed. Tell them that I put a good face on but that the truth is that things haven’t really got much easier. Tell them from me how hard it is to be a bereaved single parent.

Tell them that once disaster strikes no wishing the tables could be turned will help. Tell them that wanting to switch places with the young person killed will make no difference to those who survive.

Tell them that you understand that they may want to stay mobile but remind them of what’s at risk.

Tell them any of these things you like; print this blog post off, email it on, share it online and let it speak for itself.

Tell me you’ll help prevent this happening again, though.

Just tell me that so that one day I can tell my son that his mother’s death wasn’t completely in vain.

429 comments on “tell them

  1. Rosie D'Emilio
    December 26, 2014

    I’m so sorry for your loss my heart goes out to you and your family. The law needs to change for elderly drivers, they need to re take their driving tests after a certain age and then every couple years.

    • Janet Crow
      January 19, 2015

      I am so sorry for your loss. Retesting doesn’t help…..testers are very lenient for older drivers. Doctors often won’t help families who are trying to get their elderly loved one to stop driving. My Dad’s response to the scenario that he might kill someone was he would always head for the side of the road. He refused to acknowledge that he may have NO CHOICE. I am relieved that he is no longer driving and that he did not kill someone before he stopped.

  2. Margaret
    December 26, 2014

    I know loss by negligence of another as well. Six years have passed since I lost “the love of my life” too, though, I cannot imagine raising children without that person and having to explain time and time again why “mummy” can’t come back.

    It is true that a prison sentence cannot bring healing. It is true that we must find a way to forgive and set ourselves free because we have. It is also true that even though we forgive, we never forget and I’m doubting the pain ever leaves us fully.

    God bless you and your family. Have faith and it will pull you through somehow. It won’t be easy…but it can be done beautifully if we apply ourselves.


  3. kate
    December 26, 2014

    Couldnt agree more with this post. It may seem like “taking away their independence” when they are deemed no longer capable of driving: sorry but whos independence do they take when they cause injury or death?? It should be cut and dried and I know its not that easy but safety should be paramount!

  4. Donna Brown
    December 27, 2014

    My sister and I had to have the “difficult” conversation with a close family friend of 83 years. His GP declared him fit to drive despite a diagnosis of dementia. We discovered this way before a year.. of him coming back from church which take no more 15min’s to get home.. he ended up nearly in Birmingham he was on the motorway for 4hours.
    I insisted to his wife speak to him as I felt he’d always been a reckless driver and failed his test 10 times lol. The family friend being married to this stubborn husband stopped being a passenger in his car. Although later admitted she, a non driver, had to prompt him more and more often to give up.
    Anyway, he gave up his car after becoming more ill and staying in hospital now, sadly later died a year on..
    I believe you need to set up a campaign to get these ‘senile demetia’or ‘geriatrics nutters’ of the road.. I pray peace love and joy into your home.. your wife no doubt an angel above is watching over you to see if her boys are ok. There’s much work to be done.. with help from others you can certainly do it!! Enjoy the festive season!!Every blessing!!

    • Rona
      January 17, 2015

      Don’t call them geriatric nutters, they are still a dad, a grandad, a husband etc etc but this country needs to change the laws and people need testing especially if they are diagnosed with an illness that can affect driving and put other peoples lives at risk and an age limit for retesting needs to be set.

      • Jamie
        January 19, 2015

        We don’t need more more laws and red tape. We as human beings sharing this earth with our fellow man need to take responsibility for the potential consequences of our actions. That may be telling your mother and father they are not capable of being responsible for a car.

  5. Collette Taylor
    December 27, 2014

    If you want to lobby the government to have the tests given to all drivers when their licence is due for renewal I will sign my name and help you. Currently the only test is for eye sight. I hope that will prevent anything like this ever happening again.

  6. Alison Hutchinson
    December 27, 2014

    Hi Ben, You don’t know me but I feel like I know you as I am friend’s with one of Desreen’s cousins. I remember being told the tragic events not long after it happened and not being able to stop crying. I guess I was crying as I could relate to the overwhelming sense of unnecessary loss and waste of a life that had clearly, based on her immense talent, shone so bright. I also felt so upset for little Jackson who will never get to really know his Mummy in person, although I feel sure he will never forget her due to you and your famillies devotion. I feel sad too for the man who caused this tragic accident, I’m sure his suffering is also great and applaud your forgiveness (I’d like to think I could be so forgiving?). I have read many of your articles and hope these are as cathertic for you as they are for those reading. Her memory will continue to live on in you and Jackson. Best Wishes Alison. Xx

  7. Mark Ketteridge
    December 27, 2014

    Awful but good you are trying save others. Love to you, Jackson and the rest of your family..

  8. jessica
    December 27, 2014

    So sorry for your loss, no words could comfort no comprehend the sorrow you are all feeling. Continue to stay strong God bless

  9. Jess
    December 27, 2014

    This is so sad. I have a four year old son and although he has a dad he see’s we are not together so I worry what if something ever happens to me. My next door neighbours are elderly the man is 92 and still drives! he goes to dialysis every week, picked up and dropped off but then drives his car other days, he does not look like he would have good reactions he is very slow and can barely manage to get in and out of the car. He applied for a disabled parking space outside his home and the council wrote to me and other neighbours to see if we had any objections, I did think at the time, if he is applying as disabled then surely he should have to pass a test again to prove his disability does not effect his driving, in his case old age I think! he got pneumonia a few weeks ago and was in hospital, he came home but his wife who is bit younger, in her 80″s I think said he is not right an very confused, coming out with all sorts. I have seen the car has been driven since then and find it a real worry but not sure who to inform, does anyone have any suggestions, to be honest I really would not like to do it myself but wonder who you inform of something like this that could be in touch with them? I worry if not anyone else he is going to mount the pavement in our road and kill us.

    • Renee
      January 6, 2015

      You can contact you motor vehicle depart in your state and they can request him do a drivers license test.

  10. Jayne Elliott
    December 28, 2014

    I will tell them….again! I will show this to my 93 year old father whom we are trying to stop from driving. Maybe this time he will listen. P.S. I am sorry for your loss!

  11. tiasmum12
    December 28, 2014

    Oh Ben, I’ve just shared this on my facebook and twitter. I’ve never commented before on tour posts as never really know what to say. But I just wanted to say that I think you’re amazing for writing get blog knowing it can help others, even when at times it must be so hard.
    I bought your book at Britmums after you made me cry when you spoke, I didn’t know of you before that day and I don’t know you now.
    But you’ve touched my heart Ben, both you and Jackson. X

  12. Jo Laybourn
    December 28, 2014

    I’ve shared this post on FB Ben as I really feel it’s the most important message to get across to anyone who knows someone who should not be driving! I’m so so sorry for your loss. xx

  13. Annie
    December 28, 2014

    oh Ben, my tears are falling in floods for you, my heart is bursting with your pain and with pride for your courage please channel all that pain into a positive for you are a wonderful man, and that laddie of yours needs his Dad to fight in his corner, you can understand your emotions but he looks to you for all the things he hasn’t learnt yet and remember, every time you look into his eyes your beautiful wife will be looking back at you through him……big hug……xxxx

  14. Graz
    December 28, 2014

    I to waited too long to report my father to dvla that i thought he was unfit to continue to drive , they took his licence away i should of done it 2 or 3 years earlier. He has now been diagnosed with Vascular Dementia and is in a care home, he still talks about a new car and driving again but thats all just in his mind i was very lucky that i didn’t have his or someone else’s death or serious injury on my hands PLEASE report anyone you feel is not fit to drive to someone

  15. Helen
    December 28, 2014

    Hi Ben it’s me again I posted on your previous entry. My Dad has dementia and put up a huge fight against not driving, it only stopped when his car got pounded for non payment of tax. I had contacted GP and DVLA but nothing much happened. Someone from his dementia team even said to me “we have several people under our care who still drive” it is hard wired, dare I say probably more so in men, to equate driving with freedom and autonomy. i think you are absolutely right this issue needs to be brought out into the open and more could be done to challenge those who are losing their abilities and persist in driving, without of course stigmatising elderly drivers per se.

    • Patricia Heath
      January 17, 2015

      Helen, thank you for your post. I am sorry to hear about your dad. Anyone who relies on driving will probably be reluctant to admit they are no longer fit enough to drive, it is a hard topic to talk about. Your post is spot on, and compassionate, the elderly can be stigmatised enough without adding this to them. It does need to be brought out into the open. People are living longer, and it was probably not taken into account when the DVLA first started up.

  16. SM
    December 29, 2014

    My father has Parkinson’s Disease, which impacts his motor skills, impaired vision due to macular degeneration and optic nerve damage (though he somehow passed the last sight test required by DVLA) as well as diabetes and heart problems. DVLA is aware of all this but somehow still considered him fit to drive and he has a valid licence. Fortunately he realises that he is not safe to drive and gave up about two years ago. I have passed your message around to other people I know. So sorry for your loss.

  17. Miranda Harrison
    December 29, 2014

    Thank you for sharing the rawness if your grief. I have 3 young sons and cannot (if honest never want to) begin to imagine your pain. You, your beautiful son and your family are in my heart and prayers. I wish that 2015 may bring you a more peaceful time and that the joys of fatherhood help to heal your pain. God bless you. Mx

  18. Jan Padgett
    December 29, 2014

    Four years ago I fought this battle with my father. He was 86, and in end stage heart failure. After a n accident , where he rear ended a vehicle, luckily not causing an injury, he snuck out and brought the car home after being fixed. There was more damage to the fender! I had my son disconnect the battery, took the keys. He called a lawyer on me, but I felt the next accident could be someone’s life. It was not easy, my father did not want to lose his independence, but I never regretted my decision! This reinforces the need for stricter laws. God bless and take care.

    • Storm Rise
      January 18, 2015

      It’s a tough decision Jan, but you definitely made the right call. My Dad was 82, with Leukemia and Renal Dysfunction, and still driving. When I went back home to visit, I was appalled at how much it had affected him, and he was no longer a safe driver, so when he went to his Doctor to get his drivers license renewed (you have to do this every year in Australia over a certain age) I called her in advance, and told her what I’d observed. When he went in, she denied his renewal and his license was revoked.
      It broke my heart to do it, as he was devastated, but it would have been worse for him if he’d hit someone- or injured Mum while she was in the car with him.
      I’ll never forget the look on his face (he died a month later while I was still there) but I don’t regret the decision- just the pain it caused him.

  19. cmcleod2014
    December 30, 2014

    My son was three years old when an 86 year old man drove up over the curb, down the sidewalk and overtop of him as he sat playing in our gravel driveway with his dump truck. He then proceeded to drag my son down the curb and back to the road, while another shocked onlooker ran beside his car screaming and pounding on the windows until he finally stopped the car (at a stop sign at the end of the street). I stood motionless on the porch, watching it unfold, unable to scream or react. Fortunately, his injuries, although major, didn’t take his life or greatly affect his mobility in later years. But I still have this nightmare a few times a year,. The driver showed no remorse, even years later when we saw him at our mutual family Dr’s office, scolding me for taking his license.
    Laws need to change…we need to accept our limitations and we need to make accommodations for the elderly who lose their freedom/mobility.

  20. Milly
    December 30, 2014

    So sorry for your loss, I really admire the fact you want to ensure that your beautiful wife did not die in vain. I think one of these online petitions would be a good way to get the Government to change the law so that people have to have more than just an eye test, that there are strict guildelines as to what other things mean you should not drive (ie dementia!), GPs should be required to report to the DVLA people who have be diagnosed with things that could affect their safety on the road and the DVLA required to take action. I am shocked reading your post and the comments that people are allowed to drive still with dementia?!?! You are right, something needs to be done.

  21. Bertha Sumbwe
    December 30, 2014

    I work with seniors and the one thing common in all of them is that they have lived too long to have anyone tell them what to do. Maybe someone should tell them because they have lived that long, they are a danger to the rest of us because we all want to live as long as they have. My best wishes to you man and God Bless.

  22. Sandra
    December 30, 2014

    I’m so sorry about the tragic loss of your wife.

  23. Barry Chambers
    December 31, 2014

    I agree with everything said and being 70 years old I constantly re-assess my driving. I cannot agree with Donna Brown and her description “Geriatric Nutters” being used in such a serious debate. You will be in my prayers

  24. Jackie D
    January 1, 2015

    Reblogged this on Jackie Danicki.

  25. dee
    January 2, 2015

    I’m sorry for your loss, and the law needs to change regarding the age elderly people can drive, your wife is looking down on your son, and you also, keep her spirit alive, and your son will flourish and grow, god bless

  26. My mom took my grandma’s car away a few years ago. It was NOT something my grandma wanted and my mom felt terrible for doing it for months after but stood her ground. There was no way my grandma should’ve been on the road. And THIS post right here is justification. Thank you for this.

  27. Vanessa
    January 4, 2015

    I am so moved by this story….. Our family is in this situation where an elderly relative is still driving when they shouldn’t be and they won’t listen to us. There should be a campaign for a re test at a certain age……
    So utterly sorry for your loss

  28. Pingback: West Hampstead Life | What have I missed since December 22nd?

  29. Tina Campbell
    January 6, 2015

    Sorry for your lost!

  30. Dawn
    January 8, 2015

    shared! Such powerful words, you will have prevented this happening to some to whom it may – undoubtably.

  31. Trish
    January 8, 2015

    I am so sorry for your loss and admire your courage. I have spent today (coincidently) arguing with relatives about stopping my mother driving. I am too far away to do it myself so I then spoke to her doctor and was shocked that there is no medical certification required to renew licenses of older people they self certificate!! There needs to be intervention from the government here for once I think we need a big brother! There are far too many people driving who should not be. We don’t want to take away their independence is all I hear well surely that’s better than the consequence you and your son are having to face. My thoughts are with you and I really hope this can go some way to saving some lives.

  32. M Brown
    January 10, 2015

    I too live with the pain and devastation of loss at the hands of an elderly driver with dementia. My daughter was 31 when his car mounted the pavement from behind and killed her. Her children were 4 and 6 years old when it happened almost 3 years ago. The driver was charged but not fit to stand trial. Your blog is so well written and conveys the frustration we feel at the system which allows it to happen.

  33. Joao
    January 11, 2015

    unfortunatley it’s not just the elderly. A 19 year old negligent driver killed my wife 2 1/2 years ago. She was 25. He was never prosecuted however. I’ve felt all these emotions and much more. Was just thinking of all this tonight when I found this blog.

  34. Marc Brunney
    January 11, 2015

    i am so sorry to read of your loss and the pain you and your son have gone and will continue to go through. I hope one day soon you can come to terms with this sad life shattering event. My father drove until he was 88 yrs old. Luckily I went out with him one day and his driving was so worrying to me I suggested he either stop or re take his test to get an official opinion. He sold his car 2 weeks later having never driving it again. I believe everyone should re take there test every 5 years up too the age of 60 and then every year over the age of 60 and also be made to undergo a medical to pick up on heart and eye problems. It would only be one day and that one day could save a life. My heart and prayers are with you and your son and families and friends. I admire your courage and your strength.

  35. H R G
    January 11, 2015

    I was proud of my father the day he decided that he should no longer drive. He was 80 and still capable but felt it was a good time to stop. He did not lose any independence as he was still walking several miles a day and used public transport and taxis.

    I have also contacted the police about a driver who I believed should no longer be driving. They had pulled out onto a roundabout in front of me and it was only because I used my horn that the person on the pedestrian crossing had time to look up and step back onto the pavement. The police contacted me later to say that the family had been trying to stop this lady from driving for sometime but their visit had finally given them the push to confiscate the car keys.

    Young people can get insurance costs reduced by having a black box fitted to their car and their driving monitored. Perhaps this should be made compulsory for those over 70 so that the standard of their abilities can easily be checked. This would mean no need for tests which are only a snapshot of ability anyway.

  36. Ron Hardie
    January 11, 2015

    your stiry is awful and tore at my heart ,I lost a lovely 21 year old godson in a drunken brawl 3 year ago ,the pain is allways there but somehow we get through ,do the best you can ,it won’t get better but it will get normal ,good luck to you and your boy

  37. Irene
    January 12, 2015

    I was deeply saddened to read this tragic story and my heart goes out to this young father. I am an older driver and fortunate to have had over 50 years of incident free driving including no tickets for parking or speeding. I could not agree more with the idea of driving tests for the elderly and would be happy to be tested myself whenever I apply for a licence renewal. Having said that there are some pretty horrendous younger drivers on the road, it’s not only the elderly that kill so why not a driving test for everyone on a 5 yearly basis, or at least an assessment of skills. Plus the threat of a much longer term ban for those found guilty of dangerous driving might give some drivers pause for thought

  38. Emily
    January 13, 2015

    Wow! So incrediably moving and powerful. I hope this really does bring a huge amount of awareness, I’m just so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful lady. Sending much love to you and your son xxxx

  39. Emma Kershaw
    January 14, 2015

    Such a thought provoking post, your words are so moving 😦 I had tears reading it for your beautiful family and all that they have lost. I’ve shared this post on my Facebook page and both of my blog pages xx

  40. Mrs C M Ellis
    January 15, 2015

    I know it doesn’t help but I have always thought it rather strange that from the age of 70 one must reapply for a licence every year, what is the point of this unless you have to take some basic tests to see if you are fit to drive. In America it is standard and people get there licences revoked if they don’t meet the criteria. I hope this comes to pass I also hope your life becomes easier, obviously you will never forget her but you will learn to live without her. Blessing.x

  41. Naomi
    January 15, 2015

    I just wanted to say how brave you’ve been to post all this. I’m sure it will do good. Your wife was beautiful and your son is so sweet. I hope that as time passes, so does your pain and you can be happy again xx

  42. Yolanda duffus
    January 16, 2015

    As I was reading your blog my chess kept tightening, I can imagine how tramatic this experience is for you and your child. But you are strong and you will one day be able to feel happiness again as your wife is an Angel guarding over you and your son. Be happy in the memories that you shared with her, as their are those out there who have never been love. I will keep you and your son in my prayers.

  43. Felicia
    January 16, 2015

    So sorry for your loss. I will pray for Gods comfort for you, your son and your family. What happened to you is horible and should never have happened. I will share this message to help prevent this type of suffering again.

  44. Jayne W
    January 16, 2015

    I feel your pain in your words but I disagree. Someone who is not fully capable behind the wheel of a car is out on our roads with a lethal killing machine in their hands. Self regulation clearly does not work and you have first hand knowledge of these consequences.
    I’m an advocate of the big brother state on this issue. Let’s set an age, 70 for example, and require everyone to undertake a skills test just as we do at 17.
    I’m the daughter of an 81 year old who should have stopped driving at least 6 years ago. He hasn’t driven for over a year now due to a broken hip but still hopes / intends too. He is not capable and no matter how much I discuss this with him I cannot change his mind. The medical profession are not interested. At various other points in his medical history where someone says you can’t drive for 6 weeks for example, he will persist with verbal arguments until they agree he can at 3/4 weeks.
    Likewise with the younger ones of us that have some kind of accident or operation and are told not to drive, the onus is on self regulation. Enough is enough and the medical profession should have some connection with DVLA and insurance companies. That’s the campaign.

  45. jonquilnash
    January 17, 2015

    Reblogged this on Quarter Life Crisis.

  46. Rona
    January 17, 2015

    I am sending hugs from Bristol and I am so sorry for your loss. This blog should be used as an ad campaign as it is so powerful and wonderfully written. People need to take responsibility for ensuring their elderly relatives don’t drive when they are not capable. Laws need to be changed, age limits for resitting your driving test should be set and medical conditions need to be properly highlighted to DVLA to stop this happening too. Your wife is beautiful and so is your son. Take care x

  47. Jack
    January 17, 2015

    I found this blog via the Guardian newspaper comments section;
    After reading your heartrending history, I can only hope the elderly woman in question, and all other voluntarily competent drivers, can take a moment to realise the devastation that motor vehicles can cause at the expense of innocents.
    Even though to me 18 months seems a very lenient sentence as deterrent or punishment, I believe that licencing needs to be enforced in this country before road safety will improve. Finally I wish you and your child peace.

  48. Cielle
    January 18, 2015

    I really like this blog. when I was in my late teens I tried to learn to drive. I had literally hundreds of lessons. I didn’t realise that there was something wrong in the wiring of my brain that caused me to be un co-ordinated. Only in my 20s when studying neurology in connection with something else did I realise that it wasn’t my fault, and that I would probably never improve, in a potential crisis situation on the road I would almost inevitably suffer ‘pedal confusion’ and likely kill someone. I took the decision not to try and drive any more. Since then I have been berated as lazy, cowardly, a bad mother and many other things, just because I want to be a responsible person and not take the risk of killing people. If I meet someone who, through age or infirmity has chosen not to drive, then I do my best to encourage them. However, I still find it hard when people tell me I’ve ‘made it all up’. I have been very blessed with some friends who have been very helpful with transport etc, so please, if anybody sees someone trying to drive when they shouldn’t, befriend them, give them rides to places etc. Find out why they think they should be driving and persuade them otherwise.

  49. yasminharisha
    January 18, 2015

    Reblogged this on World of Harisha .

  50. Ulyana
    January 18, 2015

    so sorry for your loss God bless you

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