Many older people could be making the wrong decision about whether they are fit to continue driving because they lack the tools and/or advice to adequately assess their skills, according to the RAC Foundation.
At the age of 70 – and every three years thereafter – drivers must declare whether they are fit to drive. However, this self-declaration is not made on the basis of any formal medical or driving test, but simply relies on the judgement of the individual.
There are currently 3.9 million driving licence holders in the UK aged 70 or over, but this number is set to increase dramatically. The Government predicts that of the UK citizens alive today, around ten million will reach their 100th birthday.
A new report by TRL for the RAC Foundation, Driving Choices for the Older Motorist, analyses data from several countries and finds that self-assessment tools can give older drivers useful feedback about their skills. However, the RAC Foundation stresses that self-assessment needs further validation and should not replace professional assessment.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “All drivers should regularly consider their fitness to drive, but matters really come to a head when we reach 70 and have to declare that we are fit to be on the roads. In general older drivers have an enviable safety record but it is clear that faced with this critical yes or no decision many motorists simply do not have a realistic view of their capabilities.
“While this will mean there are drivers who are unfit to be on the roads there will be many others who have prematurely hung up their keys. This will have a huge impact on their ability to live an active life, access essential services and take part in social activities.
“The RAC Foundation does not support compulsory retesting at a certain age because this presumes that on reaching a particular birthday people’s physical and mental capacities change radically. But we do see an important need for an ongoing dialogue with motorists and encouragement from officials and the medical profession for all of us to regularly consider our abilities – whatever our age.”
For more information contact the RAC Foundation on 020 7747 3445.