IAM against compulsory retesting

12.00 | 18 September 2012 | | 8 comments

Despite a significant increase in the number of older drivers in the future, the IAM is against compulsory retesting for the elderly.

The IAM’s stance comes on the back of statistics it has released which show that the number of drivers over 90 years old is set to increase by 18% – from 70,000 to 82,400 – over the next five years. And with the number of 80 year old drivers also set to rise by 22% to around 1,283,000 in the next 10 years, drivers over the age of 65 – who already make up 25% of licence holders – will also increase.

The IAM also reveals that there are currently 154 drivers over the age of 100, including one 106 year old and two 105 year olds. 

However, drivers over 70 are no more likely to cause crashes than any other driver, and are considerably safer than younger drivers, according to research by the IAM. 8% of drivers are aged over 70 years, yet they only account for 4% of all injury crashes.

Despite the statistics, motorists are currently required to renew their licence at 70 and then every three years after that.

Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: “Today, over 10 million people can expect to reach 100 so the chances are they’ll be driven around by their 70 year old children. While their frailty puts them at risk if they are in a crash, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a risk to other drivers.

“Despite the increase in numbers, we should resist calls for compulsory retests for elderly drivers. The government needs a strategy now on how it is going to manage more elderly drivers and make them more aware of the risks they face. The top priority must be non-compulsory driving assessments available nationwide to help them deal with modern high speed traffic and eliminate any bad habits.

“Better training for GPs and other medical staff is also needed to ensure information and options are clearly spelt out. Finally those nearing retirement need to start planning now for their future transport needs and the inevitable day when they may have to lay down their car keys forever.”

For more information contact the IAM on 020 8996 9777.


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    I am 74 but at present I have all my faculties which are sufficient to notice there are very bad drivers across the board. It’s no good me saying all drivers should drive by Milan on the dangerous 4 lanes there but I have always believed that all drivers should have 5 year license testing. Perhapse it’s because I’ve been a commercial heating engineer all my working life and all such engineers have to continually prove competency – so why not all drivers, after all cars these days have become safer but some drivers have not. In fact some are downright dangerous. This testing should be divorced from the idea of speed cameras which at pres are about revenue not accident reduction. Accident reduction and safety would increase after imposed testing because about half the drivers I see would be off until they learn to drive in a more competant manner.

    Mick Hall
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    It seems totally irresponsible for the IAM to be against a concept that would undoubtedly improve road safety. I completely agree with Dave (Leeds) that retesting every five years regardless of age would make sense. I wonder if the IAM’s stance on this has anything to do with their “funny handshake” organisation in which members are self-proclaimed advanced drivers, but in reality may well struggle to drive according to the methods they were taught at the age of seventeen?

    Steve, Wandsworth
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    I note that IAM are keen on older drivers having non-compulsory driving assessments – I wonder who they see as potentially being able to carry out such assessments?

    David, Suffolk
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    The Driving Test was introduced by the Road Traffic Act, 1934 and made compulsory on 1st June 1935. How many people over the age of 94 have been and continue to drive without having passed a driving test?

    On the 2nd September 1939, Driving Tests were suspended for the duration of World War Two and resumed again on 1st November 1946. How many of these people are still are driving without having passed a driving test? From 18th February 1947 to February 1948 – Wartime Provisional licences to be converted into full licence without passing the test. How many of these people are still are driving without having passed a driving test?

    IAM should be advocating retesting for all ages, as we all have a duty of care to other road users.

    Many business and organisations have compulsory on-going driver testing, so it should be compulsory for every driver to take a retest every five years graduating to every year after the age of 75 years.

    Judith, Norfolk
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    I agree with the IAM and comments here – for instance, where is the sense in banning 80 year old drivers who are (say) twice as dangerous as younger drivers, but who drive only 1/4 of the distance and often at lower speeds?

    The point about frailty is also relevant – I am sure that the higher fatality rate for old drivers compared to young is in part due to their being more likely to be killed in any given accident.

    Even then, being an old driver killed in an accident does not necessarily mean being to blame for it – he might well have died in an accident caused by a younger “safer” driver.

    That is why it is vital to check all the facts, not just the headline data.

    Idris Francis Petersfield
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    Why just older drivers? Let’s have driving assessments for all drivers every 5 years including an eye test and medical review. User pays (driving is a privilege not a right after all) and those in need of improvement get 6 months to take some remedial action.

    Dave, Leeds
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    Good to see more research coming out on Older Drivers, which is a topic of increasing importance. However, I’ve recently seen other research that factors in distance travelled. As people age, they travel less distance (according to the study). Therefore while numbers of KSI may be lower than other ages when factoring in population numbers, it switches dramatically when you factor in distance travelled (giving you risk per mile). More research needs to be conducted using all available data sets so that we have one reliable answer.

    Neil Hopkins, Sussex
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    I couldn’t agree more. There is a good deal of research regarding crash involvement of older drivers, most of which appears to have been carried out in off-road test conditions, but amongst those aged in their late 70s and 80s it would appear that age-related declines in cognitive ability and perceptual skills may be an increasing factor in older driver road crashes. Right of way crashes are the most frequently recorded blameworthy crashes involving drivers aged over 75 but research suggests a small but increasing number of older driver crashes may be attributed to chronic or acute illness and medication. Information overload may be a factor for some older drivers, taking longer to scan and absorb important information particularly at complex junctions. Research suggests hazard perception response times may increase with age and some older drivers may be poor at judging vehicle approach speeds when needing to cross a stream of traffic – tending to accept smaller gap times as the traffic approach speed increases. Investment in further research with drivers in their 80s and 90s in “real world” situations would be appreciated. We mustn’t rely on personal opinion, speculation, tradition or intuition. We must use evidence to develop and evaluate appropriate supporting programmes for all road users.

    Robert, Dorset
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