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Older car drivers

There's no safe or unsafe age for a driver

Tips to help you continue driving safely or decide when it's time to think about stopping

The number of older drivers on the roads has been increasing steadily and this is expected to continue.

  • By 2030 more than 90% of men over 70 will be behind the wheel.
  • By 2035 there will be 21 million older drivers on UK roads.
  • It’s in everyone’s interest that our older motoring population drive safely and within their abilities.
  • Currently drivers over 60 have fewer crashes than younger age groups.

The vast majority of older drivers manage their driving by, for example, avoiding driving at night or at busier times of the day. Many also know when to give up and try to adjust their lives to having no car.

Cityscape highway

1. Ageing

Everyone ages differently. There is no safe or unsafe age for a driver.

2. Frailty

Older people are more frail and more likely to suffer serious injury in accidents.  Casualty figures are higher because of this frailty rather than because they’re worse drivers.

3. Tiredness

Older people are more susceptible to fatigue. It’s best to avoid long journeys, especially after meals or alcohol.

4. Fitness to drive

You must tell the DVLA about any medical conditions that will affect your driving.

  • Your GP may say when you need to do this, but it’s a good idea to ask "will this affect my driving?" whenever a new condition is diagnosed, or treatment given. Dementia poses particular problems.
  • You must also make sure you meet the eyesight requirement. Regular eye tests will help.
5. Reapplying for your licence

Once over 70 you’ll have to reapply for your licence every three years. There’s no test or medical, but you do have to make a medical declaration that may lead to DVLA making further investigations.

6. Restricting driving

You might choose to avoid driving in the dark, driving on fast roads or in busy town centres, driving in bad weather or driving long distances.

  • If you have particular problems with some manoeuvres – such as turning right at junctions – it may be possible to plan routes to avoid these.
  • Self-restriction is a sign of responsibility and can increase safety, comfort and confidence.
7. The right car

The right car can help a lot. Larger mirrors and bigger windows help all-round vision while bigger doors and higher seats can all help getting in and out.

8. Keep driving

If you've got a licence and are fit to drive, keep driving. Try not to become over dependent on your partner's driving because as traffic conditions change it can be very hard to take up driving again after several years off. Try to stay in practice on the roads you frequently use.

9. Plan for the future

There will eventually come a day when you do have to give up driving. Decisions made at the time of retirement like choosing to live in the country can have a big effect if driving has to stop.

10. Second opinion

If it's a friend or relative you're worried about, get a second opinion.

  • Check with their neighbours or friends – do they feel safe if they have a lift? Would they take a lift?
  • Does the driver seem in control when reversing or manoeuvring?
  • In some areas there are local authority schemes that use driving instructors to assess older drivers, but make sure this is in the sort of conditions and on the sort of roads they normally use.
  • Mobility Centres can also help.

General Medical Council guidance to GPs

In November 2015 the General Medical Council published a public consultation in which it proposed changes to guidance to GPs on patient confidentiality, suggesting that GPs must tell DVLA about patients who continue to drive when medically unfit.

More and more drivers are expected to continue driving into much older age and so it is right that checks and balances are in place to ensure that drivers receive appropriate advice and guidance as well as stern words and help with practical steps should they appear to be a risk to themselves and to others.

15 February 2017