Older Drivers

Making them less of a grey area

8 October 2007

Press Information: Strictly embargoed until 00.01 on 10 October 2007

an elderly couple in a car
Three-quarters of men in their 70s now hold a driving licence, 50 per cent up on 20 years ago, new figures show. And within another 20 years, 90 per cent of men aged over 70 will still be behind the wheel. To help better understand this growing area of British motoring, the AA has produced a 10-point guide and fact sheet for anyone concerned about an ageing driver.

The rise in the number of female drivers in their 70s over the past 20 years has been even more dramatic, tripling from 11 per cent in 1986 to 31 per cent in 2006. By 2026, nearly 80 per cent of women aged over 70 will be driving licence holders1.

The guide, covering the effects of age, legal obligations, planning for safety and mobility, and getting a second opinion, reveals that the higher-profile concern about child road casualties has masked a death toll of 220 pedestrians aged over 70 compared to 71 youngsters in 2006.

Other key statistics show that:

  • Older drivers are more frail: once involved in a collision, they are four times more likely to be killed than those in their 20s;
  • Although older driver deaths and serious injuries are in decline, the fall is not as great as for other age groups.

The key factor in the higher death rate depends more on frailty than driving competence. The perception that the growing population of elderly drivers is becoming an increasingly dangerous nuisance collides with statistics that indicate otherwise. These include:

  • Drivers aged over 70 are as safe as drivers aged 25. Drivers aged over 80, although becoming less capable, still have a better record than those in their teens;
  • As for being a nuisance on UK roads, last month's National Travel Survey revealed that drivers in their 70s average trips of no more than five miles – almost half that of motorists in their 40s;
  • Older drivers are involved in very few drink-drive or single vehicle accidents. These are much more likely to occur among younger drivers;
  • More than half of drivers over 75 say they leave longer following distances, are more cautious, and avoid heavy traffic and long trips than they did when they were 50. Many limit themselves to where they feel safe.

"The rising number of older drivers reflects the post-war increase in driving tests. It has been a major factor in the creation of the highly mobile society we live in today, and leaves many older people needing a car to maintain their lifestyle – shopping, visiting friends and family, and even going to the doctors," says Andrew Howard, head of road safety for AA Public Affairs.

"The AA guide aims to provide basic pointers for anyone concerned about an older driver. It also helps to provide a better understanding of the facts and features of driving for the aged, and hopefully dispels many of the prejudices held by some intolerant motorists."

Notes to editors

1 Table 2.3 - National Travel Survey: 2006 (Published September 2007, Department for Transport).

View the AA guide and fact sheet about older drivers

AA public Affairs


8 October 2007