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Too Old To Drive? - Tonight

Presenter Ginny Buckley with racing driver Barry Lee Photo: ITV / Tonight

The Crown Prosecution Service has announced Prince Philip will not face prosecution for his involvement in a collision near Sandringham last month. The crash sparked a national conversation about older drivers on UK roads. Last weekend it was announced the 97 year old would be surrendering his driving licence.

Under current rules, the DVLA require a self-declaration of fitness to drive at the age of 70. With over five million of UK licence holders aged 70 or above, ITV Tonight explores whether this system adequately protects older drivers, pedestrians and other road users.

“A typical 60 year old will have only a third of the amount of light reaching the back of the eye; the retina, as a 20 year old. And a 75 year old is likely to have only 12%. It does mean that in certain situations, perhaps the winter sun, low in the sky; you’re more likely to get dazzled.”

– Dr Carol Hawley, University of Warwick

Tonight reporter Ginny Buckley has been on the road to meet older drivers, discussing the prospect of them hanging up their keys and putting three volunteers through their paces.

Our three older drivers - Don, Mack, and David - are put to the test to see if their senses have dulled over their combined 188 years of driving. Credit: ITV / Tonight

Having a car in later years can be a lifeline - providing security and independence. Some older drivers choose to have their skills assessed and some may change their habits, such as avoiding driving at night or in adverse weather conditions. There are still more crashes involving drivers under the age of 24 than any other age group.

“More older people are on the roads today than there have ever been and actually overall their driving record is very good, they aren’t responsible for the bulk of the accidents that happen... it’s very easy to stigmatise and blame older people but on the whole they make good safe drivers.”

– Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK

Former nurse Laura Robinson’s life was changed when she was hit by an elderly driver, seriously damaging both her legs. At 29 years old and 18 months into her recovery, she relies heavily on her family to care for her.

The driver who hit Laura accepted liability, and was fined £600 with 6 points added to her licence. Credit: ITV / Tonight

"If I have children in the future that is going to be so difficult that I can't run with them, I can’t bounce on a bouncy castle with them. You know she has changed my life and mentally that is really hard to deal with."

– Laura Robinson

The Older Drivers Task Force was established four years ago to look at the safety of older drivers. It concluded the current system for licence renewal needs to change. In 2016 it recommended the Department for Transport should raise the mandatory self declaration age to 75 and require evidence of recent eyesight tests. In 2019, the system remains the same.

The Department for Transport told Tonight:

“Age on its own is not a barrier to safe driving.The government will deliver a refreshed road safety statement this year, as well as a two year action plan to address four priority user groups – rural road users, young people, motorcyclists and older road users.”

– The Department for Transport

Watch ‘Too Old to Drive?’ on ITV on Thursday 14th February from 7.30pm.

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