The scene of the tragedy at a Nambour shopping centre in June. Picture: 7 News
The scene of the tragedy at a Nambour shopping centre in June. Picture: 7 News

Should elderly drivers be tested annually?

THE family of a little girl struck down by an elderly driver in a supermarket car park are calling on the State Government to enforce age restrictions on older drivers.

Indie Armstrong, 6, was hit by an out-of-control car driven by 86-year-old Miriam Grace Paton at a Nambour shopping centre on June 17.

Mrs Paton was reversing her silver hatchback when she lost control, hitting the Armstrong family who were standing in a pedestrian refuge near the car park.

After months of grieving, Indie's family has spoken exclusively to The Courier-Mail, saying they want to start a conversation about changing the law for elderly drivers.

Currently Queensland drivers over 75 are required to carry a special medical certificate, which is subject to regular medical assessments and must be renewed every 13 months.

Indie's mother Emily, aunt Tamika Bampton and grandmother Sandy Bampton said they believed there should be an age restriction placed on elderly drivers, but it should be left to police and politicians to determine what age that would be.

In a bid to overcome their emotional and physical pain, the family wants to be the voice of change in Queensland.

 

 

Indie Armstrong (left) with father Jason, mother Emily, sister Lily and brother Sunny.
Indie Armstrong (left) with father Jason, mother Emily, sister Lily and brother Sunny.

 

Annual medical assessments are not enough and they say they won't stop until elderly drivers are made to retake regular driving tests, and those who don't pass prevented from driving.

"You get to a certain age and you should have to do a driving test to see if you can turn your head, to see if you have clear vision, to see if you can look backwards, to see if you can see over the steering wheel, and to see if your body functions well enough," Sandy said.

"It needs to be when you get to a certain age you've got to go in and prove that you can drive. And then it's just law, it's not anything personal."

In a cruel twist, Indie's death was not classified as a road fatality or a pedestrian fatality because the incident happened in a privately-owned car park.

Instead, her name was placed among an obscure set of statistics that rarely shows up in media reports and government press releases.

"It's hindering us being able to change laws because they're not added to the tally. They (the stats) look a hell of a lot better than what they really are, and that's sad," Indie's aunt Tamika Bampton said.

"We can't just be looking at road fatalities. If we're looking at elderly drivers and changing the laws for them, then it needs to include all statistics, not just road."

Should elderly drivers be required to sit annual driving tests?

This poll ended on 26 December 2018.

Current Results

Yes

42%

No

57%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

 

Mrs Paton, who had been facing a count of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, died earlier this month. Her last words were: "I've killed a child and I don't want to live anymore.''

Indie's mother Emily said Mrs Paton should not have been driving.

"As much as it makes me angry, if (she) had have had her driving tested when she got her licence renewed, she would've had her licence taken off her," she said.

"She would still be living her life. She might have been a bit cranky about it but she would be living her life and we would be living our life and Indie would be with us."

The heartbroken family said they wanted to use The Courier-Mail 's road safety campaign to remind motorists and pedestrians about the dangers behind the wheel.

They want their devastating loss to serve as a reminder for others on the road this busy festive period.

The accident has shattered the Armstrongs' once picture-perfect family life. Emily said Indie had an enthusiasm for life that was infectious.

And she made the most of her short six years on earth - whether she was sorting prawns with her father or matching her outfits perfectly in their Sunshine Coast home.

 

Indie Armstrong
Indie Armstrong

 

 

Grandmother Sandy Bampton is still recovering. Picture: Lachie Millard
Grandmother Sandy Bampton is still recovering. Picture: Lachie Millard

"I miss my morning cuddles, her crazy stories and the sparks she bought to our family," Emily said.

"I miss our cuddles at night time. She would always say I love you to the moon and back."

Emily called Indie "Dad's little offsider".

"She loved to get messy. Her dad always said Indie was the best prawn sorter although she took her tax - one for the bucket and one for herself," Emily said.

"She had a sense of style of her own and never cared what other people thought about it. Her denim jacket was her signature piece. (She was) always layering clothes and making sure her outfit was paired with the perfect pair of shoes."

She said she hoped her little girl's story would encourage others to be extra cautious on roads this Christmas.

The accident took a heavy toll on the Armstrongs. Apart from losing a beloved child, their eight-year-old daughter, Lily, suffered a severely broken leg and has been struggling with extreme post-traumatic stress.

Grandmother Sandy had both legs crushed and was placed in a medically induced coma for three days.

Both have had multiple rounds of surgery and still fight to overcome the trauma.

The driver Miriam Grace Paton, 86, at the scene
The driver Miriam Grace Paton, 86, at the scene

 

 

Mrs Paton during her teaching career
Mrs Paton during her teaching career


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