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Older Drivers

Older people make up a large part of the UK population and also a significant part of our driving population. In January 2012 more than three and a half million people in the UK aged 70+ had a current driving licence. This number was expected to reach more than four and a half million by 2015.

Research does not indicate that there is an age at which all drivers become unable to drive safely. People age differently and someone at 70 years of age may be fitter, more alert and active then someone aged 60 years or younger

However, as people get older it is only natural that their general health will begin to deteriorate. This may be a gradual process and any deterioration may not be apparent to the individual concerned.

Statistically, older drivers are less likely to have a collision than young and inexperienced drivers.  However experience has to be balanced with the inevitable effects of ageing.

You may find that your sight, hearing and judgement of speed and distance are not quite as sharp as when you were younger.  These are all vital factors in driving and they often deteriorate very gradually, so you may not be immediately aware of the full extent of the change.

It’s important to think about adjustments you might need to make in your driving habits and to take even greater care than ever on the road.

Although older drivers have a fewer collisions , this may be because they tend to make fewer and shorter journeys than others and usually travel in daylight and on familiar local roads.

It's worth thinking carefully before deciding to make longer journeys as you may have less stamina than when you were younger, especially for driving long distances at night or in poor visibility.

 

What can be done to help older drivers stay safe on our roads?

Medical checks

Older drivers should be confident that they are fit and healthy enough to be on the road. It would be a good idea for older drivers to visit their doctor each year to discuss whether they are fit enough to continue to drive.

In addition to this older people wishing to continue driving should have regular eye and hearing tests to ensure that they are not putting themselves and other road users at risk on the road.

 

Refresher courses

Although older drivers may have years of experience behind them and feel that they know all there is to know about driving safely, most drivers will have picked up some bad habits during their years on the road. It only takes one bad habit to cause a fatal collision on the road, so taking a refresher course to brush up on the basic skills of the road and provide a boost to their confidence may be of great benefit to older drivers.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists offers refresher courses for £35. To find out more details of the IAM's Drive Check 55 click on this link (opens in a new window)

 

The law and the older driver

If you wish to continue driving after the age of 70, you must renew your licence and make a declaration about your health.  The licence can then be renewed for periods of up to three years.  Licence application forms and information leaflets are available from Post Offices.

All drivers are required by law to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of the onset or worsening of a medical condition which might affect ability to drive safely, including eyesight problems. Click here (opens in a new window) for the list of conditions you must notify the DVLA in writing of. You must include  as much detail as possible,and give your driver number, your full name and date of birth.

It is an offence to drive any motor vehicle when you are unable to meet the required eyesight standard. You must be able to  read a vehicle number plate in good daylight from a distance of 20 metres ( just over 65 and a half feet) or 20. 5 metres (approx 67ft ) This is about five car lengths.

If you need spectacles or contact lenses to meet this standard, make sure you wear them when you drive.

If you can meet the standard but have cataracts, avoid night driving on unlit roads and driving against the glare of bright sunlight.

If you have glaucoma or any other eye disease,consult your doctor or specialist about your fitness to drive and, if so advised, report the condition to DVLA

Always remember to ask your doctor about the possible effects on driving ability of any medicines prescribed for you.

 

How long should you continue to drive?

These legal requirements are intended to ensure your safety and that of other road users, but responsibility for deciding when you should give up driving rests largely with you. Cars play a significant part in many people’s lives and deciding to stop driving clearly won’t be easy. However, if you are beginning to have problems coping with driving, traffic, or road conditions, please don’t wait until you have a collision or even a near miss to convince you it’s time to stop. Listen to advice from friends and relatives, talk to your doctor, or ask for an expert opinion from an Approved Driving Instructor.

It’s worth considering that, if you drive only rarely, you could save money by selling your car.  You needn’t be dependent on friends and relatives to get out and about. Taxis may seem a luxury, but you could afford a lot of local journeys for the annual cost of insuring, taxing and maintaining a car.

 

Bedford Borough Council Road Safety Team      

 telephone (01234) 228336

Email road.safety@bedford.gov.uk

 


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