Friday 15th May 2015
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The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has just released a report in which they reveal fears about the safety of people over 70 driving. Their statistics are quite interesting; 4.34m drivers are over 70 which is an increase of 11% since 2012.  The number goes up every month 10,000 people over 70 are on the roads. There are one million drivers over 80 on the road.  Clearly this is in line with the fact that we are all living longer now.  Findings revealed that the oldest driver is 107 and 232 drivers over 100 are still licensed, although they may not actually be driving still.  The driving test was introduced in 1935 which makes it 80 years old and so some of these drivers who are 100 may never even have taken a driving test.
Fears about elderly drivers
The results have raised concerns among road safety experts who fear that elderly drivers may be a danger to themselves and others on the road.  The IAM is calling for more to be done to help elderly drivers and to assist them in deciding whether or not they should keep driving.  Inevitably, as we age our eyesight decreases as does mental capacities including judgement and observation and all of this can impact very seriously on driving skills.

At present motorists who hit their 70th birthday only have to self-certify and then every three years thereafter with the DVLA. However, they aren’t tested on competence nor are they required to undergo medical assessments. These motorists only stop driving when they choose to or when  they commit an offence and are ordered to stop by the police. Drivers are required to inform the DVLA of any medical condition that could impact on their driving. This current system relies very heavily on the honesty of motorists and their own self awareness of their capabilities.

The IAM are not advocating compulsory re-testing but they say they want more to be done to help elderly drivers who are fit to drive still.  They also want elderly drivers who aren’t fit to drive to be persuaded to give up their licences. The IAM’s Neil Greig said: ‘There must be recognition that older people need help when deciding whether they should give up driving.’  One of the things that the IAM recommend is better training for GPs so they can spot the symptoms that would indicate their patients are displaying signs of dementia, slowing reactions or other conditions that would inhibit driving skills.

The RAC Foundation have given their response to this and they feel that older motorists know their limitations and don’t drive in more pressurised situations such as in the rush hour or on motorways or at night.  They claim that more than 100,000 UK drivers give up their licence earlier than they need to.

It really is up to the individual to consider their own safety and that of others.  Older drivers can continue to drive safely if they bear in mind a few factors:

  • Older people can be more prone to fatigue so they should avoid long journeys especially after meals.  Alcohol should be completely avoided.
  • Talk to a GP and check if any condition or treatment can affect driving.
  • Take regular eye and hearing tests.
  • Avoid driving in the dark, poor weather conditions, rush hours or busy roads or motorways.
  • The right car can go a long way to helping an elderly driver.  Bigger doors, higher seats, larger mirrors and windows and automatic systems can all help considerably.
  • Keep driving – this helps with confidence and maintaining driving skills.
  • Consider lifestyle, moving to the country or isolated places isn’t a good idea in later years if driving a car is going to become impossible.

What do you think about the IAM’s report on this issue?  Should a compulsory test be introduced at 70, 80 and even 90 years old?  Write your comments in the box below.