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Elderly more at risk of developing nerve damage which could 'impair' control of cars


Speaking on one of Hampshire Police’s Older Drivers Forum webinars, Professor Dilwyn Marple-Horvat said older road users were more at risk. He claimed at least nine percent of the adult population or 3.8million people could develop diabetes in their lifetime.

He warned at least half of these, mainly those with Type 2 diabetes, could go on to suffer from Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN), a type of nerve damage.

He said at least two million current drivers are likely to be affected by the condition which can have major road risks.

Mr Marple-Horvat added that Type 2 diabetes “tends to develop later in life”.

Of the two million drivers who could be affected, “more of them will be older drivers and less of them will be younger”.

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“They take messages from our feet and from your leg to the brain that tells it information in want to know to be able to do things successfully.

“The sense of touch, cutaneous sensation. If something touches your foot, would you be able to feel it?

“Could you feel the pedal when our foot was resting on the accelerator pedal and how hard you were pushing down on it?”

He added: “Proprioception. This is the ability to know where parts of your body are, including your foot… it’s another form of sensory information that begins to degrade due to nerve damage.

“That’s fairly likely to affect your ability to adjust the position of your foot and in fact how far you push down on the pedal.

“The angle of your ankle, so as you move your foot at an angle to push the pedal now, you’re not quite aware of what your foot is doing and what position it is in.”

He added: “Any or all of these things might lead to difficulties in operating an accelerator, brake and clutch and may impair your ability to control the vehicle when you’re driving along.”

Tests conducted by Mr Marple-Horvat for the Older Drivers Forum showed drivers with DPN were more likely to suffer.

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