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.

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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
  • Driving Mobility can also help

General Medical Council guidance to GPs

Following a formal consultation in late 2015/early 2016 the GMC has updated its confidentiality guidance to Doctors.

The DVLA and DVA are legally responsible for deciding if a person is medically unfit to drive, so they need to know if a licence holder has a condition or is undergoing treatment that may affect their safety as a driver.

The latest GMC guidance is that disclosure of personal information about a patient without consent may be justified in the public interest if failure to disclose may expose others to a risk of death or serious harm. 

Doctors should still seek the patient’s consent to disclosure if practicable and consider any reasons given for refusal.

The DVLA’s 'Assessing fitness to drive' provides information and guidance to Doctors about a number of disorders and conditions that can impair fitness to drive.

What does this mean in practice?

As a driver you're legally responsible for telling DVLA or DVA about a condition you have or a treatment you're undergoing that may affect your fitness to drive.

  • Your Doctor should explain to you that you have a condition that may affect your ability to drive and will remind you of your legal duty to inform the DVLA/DVA.
  • If you don't accept the diagnosis or advice from your Doctor you can seek a second opinion. Your Doctor should be able to help arrange this but will advise you not to drive in the meantime.
  • If you continue to drive when you may not be fit to do so, your Doctor will try to persuade you to stop.
  • With your consent, your Doctor may seek to discuss his/her concerns with your relatives, friends or carers.
  • If you continue to drive against your Doctor's advice or despite their best efforts to persuade you to stop then your Doctor will contact the DVLA/DVA immediately and disclose any relevant medical information, in confidence, to the medical adviser.
  • Before contacting the DVLA/DVA your Doctor should try to inform you of their decision to disclose personal information about you.
  • Your Doctor should confirm to you in writing that they have disclosed personal information to the DVLA/DVA.

26 April 2017

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