Elderly Drivers: Putting The Brakes On?

Every year there are more than 140,000 casualties on our roads and the very oldest drivers are the most likely to be seriously injured or even die at the wheel. Now there are almost 6 million drivers over the age of 70 and with an ageing population, this is set to increase year on year. More and more families are also reporting their loved ones to DVLA with concerns about their driving and the government is considering making changes to the current licensing system to protect Britain's roads. 

Currently, people over 70 have to self-certify that they are safe to drive every three years after their 70th birthday. But some think that’s not enough and believe those over 70 should have to retest completely. Edmund King, president of the AA told us that would overload an already stretched system: “At the moment it is very difficult for new drivers. In many areas there's something like a six month delay… if you then added checks for older drivers, it really would set the calendar back by years.” But when the stakes are high, some campaigners feel something needs to change.

Rob Heard from the Older Drivers Forum is also campaigning for mandatory eye tests. He described the scale of the issue: “We estimate that there's around 900,000 people on the road driving with defective eyesight.” 

For many older people, the idea of giving up their licence can cut them off from family and friends and could make them feel isolated. Almost half of drivers aged 70 and over say they would feel like they’d lost part of their identity if they were no longer able to drive.

Professor Charles Musselwhite from the University of Aberystwyth has studied older driving behaviours. He is concerned about the negative effect that giving up driving can have on mental health if people do not have other ways to get around and stay connected. He told Tonight: “Lots of older people, who do give up driving, end up feeling very isolated. They feel they can no longer be part of society.”

Mind Foundry, an AI technology company is looking at new ways it can improve older driver’s safety on the road. The technology they’ve developed uses a device placed in your car which collects data to reveal patterns in driving behaviour. The technology has been successful in Japan where they have worked alongside insurance companies to bring down premiums. Alessandra Tosi, Senior Scientist at Mind Foundry told us: “The insurers want to try to understand the behaviours of the policy holders and try to see if they could use this information to take some action, for example, informing the drivers about some risky behaviour. I hope that this will help drivers to make better driving decisions and be safer road users for themselves and for everyone else on the road.” 

A Department for Transport spokesperson told us…

Useful links

  • For help or advice on how to talk to someone you know about their driving ability take a look at Age UK on how to start the conversation

  • If you’re worried about your eyesight, a medical condition, mental health or mobility issues check out the DVLA’s website for more information or advice on how to continue to drive safely

  • Head to the Older Drivers Forum for more information or support about keeping on the road for longer

  • If you’d like your driving assessed or you need mobility assistance after giving up your licence head to the Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation

Check out Silver Voices website if you’d like to learn more about their current campaigns