Older drivers

Ten tips to help if you're worried about an older driver

Ten tips to help if you're worried about an older driver

Ten tips to help if you're worried about an older driver

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. Mobility Centres can also help

Facts about older drivers

  • In 1971 13% of the population was over 65 and 7% of those were over 85. By 2009 17% were over 65 and 12% of these over 85, and the population had grown. The proportion of older people with driving licences has risen from 15 to 57% in the same period.
  • One in 56 casualties among pedestrians in their 20s is fatal. This rises to one in 13 among the over 80s. The same applies to drivers rising from 1 in 141 to 1 in 38.
  • Drivers over 80 are two and a half times as likely to be killed in a collision as drivers in their forties but are less likely to be seriously injured.
  • Older driver deaths and serious injuries are falling – but not as much as all casualties. This is probably because the number of older drivers is increasing steadily as the population ages.
  • Drivers over 70 are as safe as drivers of 25. Drivers over 80 are less safe, but still safer than drivers in their teens.
  • 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.
  • Older pedestrians face the same problems as older drivers. In 2009 155 pedestrians over 70 were killed crossing the road, compared with 37 child pedestrians. Getting older drivers out of cars does not ensure their safety on the road.
  • Older drivers are involved in very few drink-drive or single vehicle accidents which are much more likely among younger people.

(6 December 2011)