In the 90’s only 33% of those over 70 had a driving licence, and now, 20 years later that figure has doubled with last year 67% of people aged 70 or older holding a driving licence. Alongside that, over 113,000 90-year-olds hold a valid driving licence and still drive.
Now, the Department for Transport is considering enforcing eye tests every three years for over 70’s in a bid to remove potential risky drivers from our roads.
“Good eyesight is important,” the document said. “We are minded to consider there may be a case for mandatory eyesight tests at 70 and at three-year intervals thereafter, to coincide with licence renewal.
We’ve reported before on different suggestions by various charities such as compulsory eye tests for everyone at a 10-year mark, to adapting the laws on older drivers as the numbers rise so drastically.
However, this time the government has formally announced it’s consideration of such a scheme. Research previously has show that 44% of optometrists have seen someone who isn’t fit to drive yet does, so is this a bad thing?
For anyone who’s ever had an eye test, you will know how simple it is. Normally, an initial photo of the retina is taken, followed by a check of your vision by an optometrist using different tests. They then determine your prescription and can check any other looming problems.
An eye examination can often pick up on other health problems such as brain tumours, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, along with regular eye problems such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. Getting an eye test could quite literally save your life, and from as little as £10, it makes sense to get checked regularly.
Plus if you claim certain benefits or fall into specific categories you can get free eye tests, so it’s always worth checking.
Caroline Abrahams, a director at Age UK, said: “Every driver, regardless of age, is responsible for ensuring they are safe on the road. Being able to see clearly is obviously absolutely crucial.
“When it comes to the suggestion of mandatory eye tests however, we are not aware of any evidence showing poor eye sight is a significant cause of accidents among older drivers. The Department for Transport says it will review the research, but until the results are known it feels premature for drivers to have a compulsory eye test at 70 and at intervals thereafter.”
What to do if you are concerned?
Previously other age focused driving groups such as the Older Drivers forum have issued advice to the elderly. They encourage drivers to drive during daylight and avoid unknown routes unless necessary.
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 Institute 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.
If you are concerned about a family member or a friend, it is perhaps worth having a conversation with them to see if you can help them in any way, or if you are concerned they may be driving unsafely then offer to drive them to shops or to other events they may attend. Consider helping them to apply for a bus pass or similar as a car is often a lifeline for the elderly to meet up with friends, see doctors and more.
Let us know what you think about this. Do you think this is a good idea? Would you want to have a eye test frequently? How do you make sure you are fit to drive?