In April of this year, Age UK revealed that “Between 1995/97 and 2013 the proportion of people in Great Britain aged 70+ holding a licence increased from 38% to 62%” With the recent news of His Royal Highness, Prince Philips’ crash, the question has been once again raised of at what point does it go too far?
With the judgement on whether you are able to drive placed on the driver’s shoulders, it begs to pose the question, is the current law fit for purpose as the average population age rises along with life expectancy?
More dangerous than ‘boy racers’
Drivers over 65 were responsible for eight percent of all road traffic collisions in 2017 compared to the three percent for drivers under 22 years old. While these results have been skewed due to population size, Seargent Rob Heard from the team at the Older Drivers Forum says that drivers over 80 are four more times likely to crash than others.
However, Edmund King, president of the AA, said “We wish the Duke of Edinburgh well. Many commentators use high profile car crashes involving elderly drivers as a reason to call for bans or restrictions on older drivers.
If driving restrictions based on age and safety were introduced, we would be more likely to restrict young drivers rather than older drivers.
Young, predominantly male, drivers are much more likely to crash within six months of passing their test than older drivers within six months of hanging up their keys.
He went on to say “The decision to hang up your keys is a tough one but should be based on personal advice from your GP and family rather than being based on some arbitrary age,
We all age differently and the car is an essential lifeline for many elderly people.”
The law and older drivers
At the minute, the only law on older drivers is a licence renewal every three years once you turn 70. The responsibility of deciding whether you are fit to drive is up to you, meaning that those who are fiercely independent are driving, even though others may not think they are.
There is no law on repeated eye tests, which makes it easy for you not to notice that you need glasses. Over the past few months, there has been a big push for eye tests every so often to be made compulsory under UK law.
Unless you have a declarable medical condition, there is no law on medical fitness or a medical assessment, apart from those driving minibuses or any large commercial vehicles.
Advice for older drivers
As the number of OAPs on the road increases every year by 750,000, institutions such as the Older Drivers Forum and Gem are encouraging older drivers to be sensible and make sure to minimise any risks when driving. There are currently 314 licence holders who are over 100, and the oldest UK licence holder is 107.
They encourage drivers to drive during daylight and avoid unknown routes unless necessary. Only two weeks ago we reported that collisions due to cautious drivers are up by a third, and those who are driving in unfamiliar areas are often much more cautious.
Once you reach the age of 60, you are automatically entitled to a free eye test. It is worth booking in and taking advantage of this, as it can help to detect other medical conditions, not just your eyesight.
Keep fit by doing 15-20 minutes of exercise a day. Whether this is a short walk through a local park, or attending a class at your nearest gym, keeping fit will make sure your joints are mobile and can help with coordination, both useful skills for driving.
Get a drivers assessment or speak to a local driving instructor for a one-off lesson that you can use to make sure you are aware of the roads. With this, you also get a professionals opinion on how you drive and things for you to watch out on. The Older Drivers Forum has a great collection of courses by professional bodies such as the Fire and Rescue service, the Insititute of Advanced Motorists and more. The aim of these is not to criticise your driving but instead to make sure that you are confident on the roads, and to keep you driving for longer.
Take a look at your car. Is it the most appropriate for your needs, and have your needs changed? What may have been a luxury, good-looking car may now need to turn into something that is easy to get in and out of, clear speedometer and bright enough lights.
Sgt. Heard from the Older Drivers Forum said that those who have a eye test and driving assessment regularly are less likely to crash or be involved with a collision, so it is worth investing in these things before it is too late.
Do you think the law on older drivers should change? Do we need to crack down or should we work towards a more supportive world? Let us know below.