We all hear the younger generation call for us ‘oldies’ to have a driving test when we reach a ‘certain age’, but is that call necessary?
In fact, drivers aged 60 and over have fewer crashes than younger drivers – perhaps because we’re more cautious
So, let’s look at some facts:
Everyone ages differently. There is no specific safe or unsafe age for a driver.
Older people are frailer and more likely to suffer a serious injury in an accident. Casualty figures are higher in this age group simply because of this frailty rather than because they’re worse drivers.
Older people are more susceptible to becoming fatigued. It’s best to avoid long journeys, especially after meals or alcohol.
The older driver is more likely to suffer from medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive safely.
You must tell the DVLA about any suspected medical conditions that could affect your driving, but one of the problems is that many older drivers are in denial about their condition, or if not in denial then unaware of them.
Eyesight, for example, deteriorates as people get older, but as this is a slow process many are unaware that it is happening at all.
The onset of dementia is another problem that many drivers are unaware of. It creeps up slowly and may not be obvious, or even recognised at first, but even in the early stages driving will be affected by brief lapses in concentration.
A report in the Daily Telegraph recently highlights the catastrophe that happened to a young mother:
Ben Brooks-Dutton’s wife, Desreen, died in 2012 after an 83-year-old driver, Geoffrey Lederman, 83, came close to wiping out the whole family after mounting the pavement at 50mph. Mr Brooks-Dutton had been walking with his wife and two-year-old son at the time.
The pensioner accelerated when he intended to brake, clipping the child’s pushchair before ploughing into the 33-year-old mother. A female student who was walking nearby suffered brain damage and the loss of an eye.
Mr Brooks-Dutton is now vigorously campaigning for a change in the law.
He said that too many elderly drivers were putting the public at risk because of a system that fails to take into account the fact that “a car is a powerful weapon”.
Currently, drivers have to renew their licence every three years from the age of 70, confirming their ability to drive.
Mr Brooks-Dutton said: “There needs to be a test to check that they are well enough to drive.”
“No one wants to take someone’s life – no one wants that hanging over them for the rest of their life, but a car is a powerful weapon.”
Neil Greig, the director of policy and research for IAM RoadSmart (formerly the Institute of Advanced Motorists), had this to say on Radio 4’s Today programme:
“If you look at the accident statistics, 70 year olds are just as safe as 50 or 60-year-old middle-aged drivers. If you are going to re-test anybody based on their road safety record, it would be new drivers, two years after passing their test.”
However, he called for the introduction of eye tests for drivers at the age of 75.
“There is going to be a huge increase in the number of older drivers on our roads, three times as many drivers over the age of 70 in the next ten years,” he said. “We are unprepared for that.”
“In any case, once over 70, you’ll have to reapply for your licence every three years. There’s no formal test or medical, but you do have to make a medical declaration that may lead to DVLA making further investigations.”