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Older car drivers

10 tips for driving safely

If you're an older driver yourself or if you are worried about an older relative or friend who is still driving, our tips will help you continue to drive safely, or decide for yourself when it's the right 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.

  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. It is likely that casualty figures are higher because of this frailty rather than because they are worse drivers.

  3. Fatigue
    Older people are more susceptible to fatigue. Long journeys are best avoided, especially after meals or alcohol.

  4. Fitness to drive
    It's your responsibility to ensure fitness to drive. You must inform the DVLA of any medical conditions that will affect your driving. Your GP may say when you need to do this, but it is 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 will have to reapply for your licence every three years. There is no test or medical, but you do have to make a medical declaration that may lead to DVLA making further investigations.

  6. Restricting driving
    Many older drivers restrict how and where they drive. 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 sorts of conditions and on the sorts of roads they normally use.

General Medical Council guidance to GPs

On 25 November 2015 the General Medical Council published a public consultation ‌in which it proposed changes to guidance to GPs on patient confidentiality and suggesting that GPs must tell DVLA about patients who continue to drive when medically unfit.

By 2035 there will be 21m older drivers on UK roads enjoying the freedom and utility that private transport provides. However, it is 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 and the vast majority 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.

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.


Facts about older drivers
  • The population of the UK is ageing. Over the period 1974 to 2014 the median age (age at which half the population is older and half younger) has increased from 33.9 to 40 years.
  • Over the same period the proportion aged 65 and over has increased by 47%. By 2014 almost 18% of the population was over 65.
  • By 2014, 8% of the population was over 75, an increase since 1974 of 89%.
  • One in 70 casualties among pedestrians in their 20s is fatal. This rises to one in 14 among the over 80s.
  • Drivers over 80 involved in a collision are 6 times more likely to be killed as drivers in their 40s.
  • While the total number of drivers killed or seriously injured has been falling over the past decade, as has the number of young drivers (17-25), the number of older driver (70 and over) deaths and serious injuries has increased. This is probably because the number of older drivers is increasing steadily as the population ages.
  • Older pedestrians face the same problems as older drivers. In 2014, 136 pedestrians over 70 were killed crossing the road compared with 29 child pedestrians (under 16).
  • Older drivers involved in accidents are much less likely to fail a drink drive breath test than younger drivers
  • More than 50% of drivers over 75 say they leave longer following distances, are more cautious, and avoid heavy traffic and long trips compared with when they were 50. Many also avoid night driving, motorways and drive more slowly.

(Page updated 25 November 2015)