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Keeping up with an ageing population

By raccars Published

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Better health and medical care means that we are living longer. Britain’s population is ageing and this, in turn, means that there are many more elderly people on our roads. The image is of motorists whose age may make them less able drivers and be more likely to be involved in accidents, but statistics do not bear this out. In fact, according to statistics from the Association of British Insurers, 18-20 year olds are twice as likely to be involved in an accident as drivers over 70. This may be because older drivers cover fewer miles, drive on familiar routes and don’t drive at night time or in bad weather. Nevertheless, it is also thought that older drivers take fewer risks and drive more carefully.

There is concern, however, that the health of some older drivers could put them and other motorists at risk on the road. Current legislation means that drivers must renew their licence every three years after the age of 70. There is no requirement to take any medical or re-sit the test. Instead, over-70 drivers need only fill in a form declaring that they are fit to drive. The DVLA supplement this form with a list of illnesses, not all of which are age-related. Motorists are told that they must tell the DVLA if they suffer from some conditions or that they may have to tell about others. Clearly, much like self-certifying that you are fit to drive, there are large grey areas and room for uncertainty. If a driver does not reveal one of these conditions and is subsequently involved in an accident, he or she could be fined up to £1,000.

The only people who can stop older drivers from getting behind the wheel are doctors, opticians or the police. It is, however, not mandatory for over 70s drivers to take an eye test and GPs will not necessarily give an opinion. The police will only get involved if the driver concerned is involved in an incident. Family or friends could suggest that an elderly driver should stop driving and anyone can report a driver to the DVLA, if they believe they are unfit to drive. In this case, an investigation will be launched.

Older driver can voluntarily take an Experienced Driver Assessment. It will not affect their licence and there is no requirement to do so. They can also ask their GP for an opinion and have regular eye tests but, again, they are not required to do so. With more elderly drivers on our roads, it may be time for more legislation.

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