Driving into Old Age? A petition backed by almost a quarter of a million signatures sparked major debates across the country whether it should be made compulsory for drivers driving into old age to retake their driving tests every three years. Here’s what it is all about…
At present, UK law simply requires drivers over 70 to renew their licence every three years. These licence renewals are done via self-assessment forms – there are no actual tests to assess a driver’s eyesight, hearing, reaction or driving skills in general.
There is also no legal age at which drivers should give up driving. It is left up to drivers to determine when they should hang up their car keys. As a result, some people give up driving too soon for fear of no longer being able to drive safely. Others continue driving into old age for too long and end up causing accidents due to failing eyesight, severely diminished reaction times or confusion.
Aware of these facts, leading road safety experts setting out a national strategy for safely driving into old age made several recommendations. One of these recommendations was to raise the age of licence renewal to 75 if providing proof of having undergone an eye test is made compulsory.
Started by Ben Brooks Dutton after his wife was killed in an accident involving an 85-year old gentleman hitting his accelerator instead of his brake, the petition calls for a change of this legislation (learn more).
Ben is asking for compulsory triennial retesting – including assessments of drivers’ eyesight and hearing; general driving skills and their ability to react quickly and correctly in case of an emergency – of drivers from the age of 70 onwards.
Thanks to support from his local MP, Ben’s petition will soon be discussed by a cross-party transport committee. In the meantime, banners are highlighting the core issue of his campaign to families everywhere.
As Ben said, nobody wants the thought of having killed someone hanging over their head for the rest of their life, but cars are powerful weapons and we must make sure we are safe to use them. This is not a matter of saying ‘I’m just fine’ – it is a matter of making sure we are.
Reactions to the petition
Old Drivers Taskforce spokesman Sgt Rob Herd said that, as a rule, drivers over 70 are no more likely to be involved in collisions than younger drivers. He added that it must, however, be considered that as we age and start suffering from frailty and diminishing hearing and eyesight, problems can arise unless these issues are addressed at an early stage.
IAM Road Smart’s Director of Policy & Research, Neil Greg, stated that IAM Road Smart, the UK’s largest road safety charity, is not convinced that compulsory retesting will work. Stating that in the charity’s opinion, 70-year old drivers are no less safe than 50 or 60-year-old drivers, he added that testing thousands of potentially safe drivers aged 70 and over every three years would be incredibly difficult and expensive both in terms of logistics and administration.
He continued by saying that compulsory testing would have little to no impact on road safety and could result in people losing their licence and ending up isolated and with no mobility or independence for no reason at all.
Explaining that simulations carried out by IAM Road Smart revealed that younger drivers are more likely to cause accidents because they drive too fast and too close to vehicles in front of them, whereas older drivers with a lifetime of driving experience keep safer distances and drive slower, he added that the charity believes voluntary assessments, schemes like the Old Drivers Taskforce’s Driving into Old Age campaign and Hampshire Council’s Driver Skills Scheme and providing people with relevant information on when it is time to stop driving would be far more useful.
He did, however, state that these are issues that need to be discussed, especially as the number of drivers over the age of 85 is expected to double to a million by 2025. You can see what else he told the BBC here.
The Driver Skills Scheme
Hampshire Council is hoping to help older drivers make sure they are safely driving into old age by offering a Driver Skills Scheme. Speaking to BBC reporter Holly Hamilton, Hampshire Council’s Senior Road Safety Officer Graham Mylward explained that the scheme – which is currently used by around 50 people every month and involves assessors sitting in with drivers in their own cars, offering advice and monitoring their ability to drive safely – is designed to help people carry on driving into old age for longer, but without going on too long and becoming unsafe.
Senior driver Brian Kaz, who has been driving for 56 years and is currently participating in the scheme, stated that he is aware that his eyesight and reactions are no longer as sharp as they used to be. He feels he is benefitting from the appraisal he receives via the scheme and believes that retesting makes sense once you get to a certain age.
Driving into Old Age with Intensive Courses Driving School
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