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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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