Up for debate: End of the road for older drivers?

Delays continue following the serious collision
Delays continue following the serious collision

People’s driving skills can change over time and as people get older there may come a point when they will no longer be as safe as they once were on the roads.

In the last year alone, nearly 17,000 motorists aged 70+ have had their driving licence revoked or refused due to a medical condition.

UK law requires drivers to renew their licence every three years when they reach 70, with older drivers legally required to declare that they are fit to drive.

However, nearly half (49 per cent) of Brits disagree with how the law currently stands and are calling for it to be changed, forcing drivers aged 70 and over to retake their driving test as well as renewing their licence once every three years.

At present, there are more than 4.5 million drivers aged 70 and over who hold a full driving licence in the UK, according to the DVLA. This includes 239 motorists aged 100 or over, with one male driver holding a full drivers licence at the grand age of 108.

Despite many older drivers having years of experience on the roads, nearly one in six (16 per cent) Brits admit that they are troubled at the behaviours of older drivers behind the wheel. In fact, nearly two fifths (39 per cent) of people admit that they have an elderly relative or friend whose driving is giving them cause for concern, with more than two thirds (67 per cent) of them worrying that they might cause a car accident.

So, in a bid to help keep our roads safe, more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of Brits say they would alert the authorities if they thought an elderly driver was a danger on the roads. And some have already resorted to these drastic measures. More than one in 20 (6 per cent) motorists who are concerned about an elderly relative/friend’s driving admit to reporting their loved one to the police, deeming them to be an unfit road user.

Currently, there is no legal age at which someone must stop driving. However, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of Brits believe there should be a legal age limit when we are no longer allowed to drive, with one in seven (15 per cent) of them saying that they think the legal limit should be between 71 and 75.

However, as it stands, the onus is on the driver to decide when they no longer have the ability to drive safely. And as aging affects us all differently, many older drivers feel they have been unfairly tarnished with a negative perception of their driving abilities. In fact, more than a third (34 per cent) of elderly drivers believe they are a better driver today than they were when they were younger. And to prove how good a driver they actually are, two fifths (40 per cent) of these older drivers would be happy to take their driving test again.

But it’s not just older drivers that Brits feel should be re-taking their driving test. More than a fifth (21 per cent) of Brits also think all motorists should have to do so every 10 years, which could answer the question of which age group poses the greatest danger behind the wheel.

And according to some older drivers, their younger counterparts may fit the bill. In fact, more than half (54 per cent) of drivers aged 70 and over believe that younger drivers are more reckless when driving. A similar number (50 per cent) of older drivers believe younger drivers cause more accidents on the road.

However, younger drivers (17-26) tend to disagree, as the majority (93 per cent) believe they are good drivers, and more than one in 10 (11 per cent) feel they are better drivers than their older equivalents. In fact, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of these younger drivers don’t think elderly drivers are safe on the road.

An experiment by Confused.com used a Transport Research Laboratory driving simulator to pit three drivers aged 18 to 26, against three drivers aged over 70.

The results were inconclusive, suggesting that it’s all down to the individual motorist behind the wheel, with age not necessarily a factor in driving ability.

Matt Lloyd, head of motor insurance at Confused.com, said: “We understand that driving gives older motorists the freedom and independence that they require.

“However, there will come a point when we may not have the ability to be a safe driver and that might be down to age or any number of other reasons. And as motorists we all need to recognise the importance of the need to be physically and mentally fit.

“For years, people have argued over whether younger or older motorists are the worst drivers. While this is still up for debate, we need to understand that we should be more concerned about the individual’s driving abilities.

“Drivers, regardless of age, should be mindful of their own ability and make sure responsible driving is their number one priority.

“Your safety and the safety of other road users are the most important things to consider. If you’re concerned that your driving is not as good as it was, don’t wait for an accident to convince you to stop.”

All quoted statistics are based on research carried out by One Poll in February this year, or from an FOI request to the DVLA, placed by Confused.com

What do you think? Should older drivers be made to re-take their driving tests? Should all drivers have to?

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