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The issue over assessments of older drivers has been in the spotlight recently, following Prince Philip’s crash in January.
And now new data shows that there has been a rise of 150 percent in the number of drivers aged over 70 banned from the roads on medical grounds.
Almost 22,500 older motorists have had their licence taken away from them on medical grounds in 2018 according to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). The information was obtained by the Times via Freedom of Information Act request by the Times.
It shows that 61,482 car and motorbike licenses of drivers of all ages were revoked for medical reasons last year. This is an increase of 116.8 per cent since 2010.
In the same period, the number of drivers aged 70 and over who had their licenses revoked on medical grounds shot up by 142 per cent, from 9265 in 2010 to 22,458 in 2018.
We spoke to Haydn Jenkins, of Shropshire-based Alpha Automatic, who provides assessments for older people looking to remain safe on the roads.
Young vs. Older Drivers
When The Duke of Edinburgh, 97, was involved in a crash near the Queen’s private home at Sandringham in Norfolk it sparked a debate over older drivers and some were surprised Prince Philip was still driving at that age at all.
Haydn said: Haydn said: “I don't think the age should matter. I see many younger/ middle-aged drivers who benefit from some driver training. Just because someone reaches a particular age shouldn't trigger a retest or driver assessment.”
Despite recent statistics, seniors are actually far safer compared to other age groups. For drivers aged between 60 and 69 have less the crash rate than drivers aged 20-29 according to the road safety charity, Brake. However, crash involvement rates go up from age 80.
Brake say on their website that it is likely that older drivers are safer on the roads as they are less likely to take risks such as driving too fast or driving while distracted. This will help compensate for deterioration in performance due to health reasons, such as slower reaction times.
“If a doctor advises you that you should report something to the DVLA you should. It doesn't mean you will be stopped driving you may need adaptations or a period of not driving until your treatment has become effective. It may be you just need some refresher or familiarisation tuition.
It is always better that the driver notifies the DVLA, rather than your doctor, or worse still the police after you've been involved in an RTC (road traffic collision),” Haydn added.
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Are Older Drivers a Danger to Others?
The report of the independent Older Drivers Task Force, published in 2016, said police records show that the risk of an older driver over 70 killing a pedestrian is less than that of middle-age drivers and half that of drivers aged up to age 25.
Edmund King, President of the AA said in January: “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.
“Older drivers often self restrict their driving by not driving at night and only driving on familiar roads.
“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.”
Rising Age of Driving
In July 2017, the number of drivers over the age of 90 had reached 100,000 for the first time and there were more than 4.5 million drivers over the age of 70 in the UK, according to data from the DVLA.
In 2016, the Older Drivers Taskforce predicted that the number of drivers aged over 85 could top 1,000,000 by 2025 and that it is vital we prepare for this change.
Aging is an inevitable process and as the population of older drivers continues to grow, it is vital to remain vigilant when it comes to recognising when it might be time to get some advice.
The DVLA has an A to Z of conditions that can impact whether you drive safely or not. These include broken limbs, cancer, diabetes and a number of mental health issues including anxiety and depression. Haydn said that there is no one factor that prevents older people from driving. “It could be a life-changing accident or medical condition, getting worse,” he said
“It could be just the ageing process. Physical problems up to a point can be overcome, eyesight would be a no-no.” “If the older person is no longer able to read a number plate at the required distance 20 meters, the other problem we cannot work around is cognitive impairment, losing the ability to make executive decisions while driving.”
Are Drivers Over the Age of 70 Required to Retake Their Test?
No, drivers don’t need to retake their driving test after the age of 70. There is also no upper age limit to driving in the UK, as long as you are fit and able to and have renewed your licence.
However, they are required to reapply for their licence at the age of 70 years old and every three years thereafter. There is no requirement for them to take a test but applicants do need to declare they are fit and healthy and their eyesight meets the minimum requirements for driving via self-assessment.
How to Renew Your Licence When You Are Over 70
A D64P form will be sent to you by the DVLA 90 days before you turn 70 which you complete and send it back to them. Alternatively, you can renew your licence online using your Government Gateway ID.
Are You Fit to Drive?
If you are unsure whether you are fit to drive then speak to your GP or another health professional for some advice. There are a number of medical conditions which can interfere with your driving ability at any age so it’s important to listen to medical advice.
Help for Older Drivers
Living in rural Shropshire with limited transport options means that being able to drive is a lifeline for many older people.
To ensure you keep driving, safely, for as long as you can there are special adaptations that can be made to your vehicle to make driving easier. If you qualify for Motability then this can be done for you should you order your vehicle as part of the scheme.
However, Hadyn said that sometimes older drivers are relived to give up their licence. “There are always difficulties with transport in rural areas like Shropshire.
“But we often find most older drivers who have given up are often relived of a burden of needing to be the one who always had to drive others. Now they can finally have a reason to say no, I can’t drive you.”
Regular Driving Assessments
The RoSPA advises that an assessment will help you identify how your driving is changing and what you can do to be able to drive longer.
They say: “A driving assessment can help you to identify how your driving is changing and what you can do to continue driving safely.
This is NOT a test, but a friendly check of your driving strengths and weaknesses. It is also confidential.
If you have a medical condition or disability, take an assessment at a Mobility Centre.”
Help Available for Older Drivers in Shropshire
Haydn offers driving assessments in Shropshire for older drivers and those who have a disability. This takes 90 minutes and aims to give drivers help with coping strategies and a report on their driving ability.
“There are driving mobility centres around the country, where older and younger disabled people can get advice on adapting their driving style or on how they control the vehicle. e.g. hand controls Left Foot Gas pedals or secondary controls”
“A 90-minute older driver assessment to give you – or a loved one – a second opinion and the means to decide if it’s still safe to drive I will give you an honest, objective assessment of your driving.
“The older Driver Assessment have been developed to identify your strengths and weaknesses behind the wheel and to help increase your confidence on today’s busy roads.”