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Can you be too old to drive

It’s a touchy subject. For many, driving offers an independence that cannot be rivalled. Having that challenged or revoked, can be an incredibly painful pill to swallow. But what do you do if an elderly friend or relative seems to be an accident waiting to happen?

Them’s the rules

Currently, there is no legal upper age limit for driving a car. Though once a driver reaches 70 they have to renew their licence and every three years from then on. This isn’t a formal test or quiz, it is simply a form they will be sent from the DVLA. It just requires filling in and declaring, using their own judgement that they are fit to drive still.

However, if the elderly person in question has developed a medical condition or disability that could potentially affect their ability to drive, it is a legal requirement to contact the DVLA and make them aware of this. In most cases, the DVLA will send the person a form asking them for more details about the condition and also to agree to the DVLA requesting a medical report from their GP.

It is worth bearing in mind that having a disability or condition doesn’t necessarily mean that their license will be affected or revoked. It depends entirely on the condition. It may result in nothing at all, a restricted license or a medical or driving test being required. If it is a test, it will be free.

If the elderly person is concerned about their driving ability and would like an objective assessment of their skills, they could undertake an Experienced Driver Assessment (EDA). To be clear, an EDA is not a test, it is an assessment which aims to provide an objective and confidential report on a person’s driving ability.

Let the statistics speak

According to a survey or motorists by Auto Trader, older drivers should be forced to retake their driving test when they turn 66. The survey did not make positive reading where elderly drivers were concerned: 73% said they were concerned by the behaviour of older motorists and 60% said older drivers should prove their fitness to drive through regular sight and coordination tests. Over a quarter said they felt unsafe when being driven by someone over the age of 65.

But is there any evidence to back up such a damning sentiment? Well, not really.

The Department for Transport statistics suggest that the above findings are more to do with perception that any actual concrete evidence. For example, the over 70s make up just 9% of the driving population and account for only 6% of driver casualties. The DfT report suggested that older drivers felt their reputation was in tatters thanks to a small amount of high profile cases in the media; an unfair representation of the reality.

Another survey, by Age UK Enterprises, suggests that older drivers are actually far better behaved in the car than their fellow younger drivers.  Just 7% of over 65s admitted to using their mobile phone behind the wheel, compared to 21% of the whole driving population. And when it comes to rummaging around in the glove box mid drive? Only 10% of over 65s reported doing this, compared to 20% of the rest of the driving population.

What to do?

So we’ve discovered that, generally speaking, whilst older drivers suffer a lot of bad press, statistically speaking they are relatively safe drivers. Of course this isn’t always the case. 

If you have an elderly friend or family member who you are worried about, what can you do? First things first, put yourself in their shoes and understand that this is a hard subject to approach. Tact is your friend here.

Remember that, ultimately, it is either the DVLA’s or person in questions decision whether to stop driving or not. But you can gently encourage them to think about their driving abilities and suggest they take an EDA.

If you are very concerned, do bear in mind anyone can tell the DVLA is they think someone is not fit to drive. The DVLA will then investigate. 


published: 21/04/2015 09:21:25

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