A task force has recommended raising the mandatory ‘fitness to drive self-declaration’ for licence renewal age from 70 to 75 years, on condition that proof of an eye sight test is made compulsory.
These are two of seven key recommendations from the Older Driver Task Force in its report ‘Supporting Safe Driving into Old Age’, which sets out a national older driver strategy.
More than 25 experts and organisations in transport, health, policing, licensing, car manufacturing and insurance collaborated to produce the report, under the leadership of John Plowman, chairman of the Older Driver Task Force.
The Task Force analysed international evidence, available technology and road safety schemes before making its recommendations for government and other stakeholders.
The emphasis in the report is to help government and industry work together to ensure older drivers can stay on the road and enjoy independent lives for as long as it is safe to do so.
The report’s key recommendations are:
- Raising the automatic requirement for drivers to notify the DVLA at age 70 of any medical condition affecting driving to 75 – if the requirement for an eye sight test is made compulsory
- Requiring the DVLA to get evidence of an eyesight test at licence renewal
- Asking a consumer body to prepare specific advice on modern car safety features that are of special significance for older drivers – and consider ‘silver’ NCAP-style assessment
- Improving road design, signs and markings to meet the highest international standards specifically to aid older drivers but bringing benefits for all drivers
- Evaluating existing driving appraisal courses and improving information provided to older drivers, their families, and medical professionals
- Piloting new products which offer an alternative to driving for older people.
- Pooling insurer data and research into major claims involving older drivers to understand the detailed causes.
John Plowman said: “Our aim is to help older people drive safely for longer by changing our culture.
“A key precondition is that older motorists should be medically fit to drive and seek advice when a limiting condition develops or gets worse, but age itself should not be a barrier to safe driving.
“We need to be open about offering advice and support, and look at fresh ways of doing this. Encouraging voluntary, confidential driving appraisals so that they become the norm not a stigma and helping older drivers understand and use the latest safety-driven vehicle technology will make a big difference.
“People are living longer, healthier, more active lives, and driving longer. The number of drivers over 85 will double to one million by 2025, many without access to public transport.
“This influx of older drivers has important economic and social value but it also presents road safety risks if we don’t adapt. Getting to grips with these risks, without limiting the independence and freedoms of the elderly is an important policy challenge – one to be tackled by the appointment of a minister with responsibility for older drivers.
”Police data suggests that older drivers are less likely to be involved in crashes than young drivers. They are, however, more fragile and four times more likely to die or be seriously injured in a road accident.
“For every mile, those aged 80 and over are 10 times more at risk of being killed than people half their age.”
The report and its findings have been welcomed by the Government.
Andrew Jones MP, road safety minister, said: “Age on its own is not a barrier to safe driving. We keep the current rules under review which make clear all drivers must report any medical conditions which might affect their driving.
“We must strike the right balance between safety and personal mobility and we will carefully consider the recommendations.”
GEM has welcomed the recommendations presented by the Older Drivers Task Force but says it’s important to ensure there is consistency across the UK in terms of an older person’s access to professional help and the quality of information available to them and their families.
Neil Worth, road safety officer, said: “We support the Task Force’s recommendation to raise the driving licence renewal age from 70 to 75, as long as proof of an eyesight test is made compulsory.
“We wholeheartedly support any moves to remove the stigma or embarrassment felt by some drivers who realise their capabilities are changing in later life. We encourage all senior drivers to take responsibility for their own safety and to book regular driver appraisals. In the experience of our members, these are enjoyable and positive experiences that really motivate senior drivers to put safety first.”
IAM RoadSmart has said that it is possible to increased the age of validity to 75 years without compromising safety but says the role of medical profession is critical.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research said: "Official crash statistics show that the risk of older drivers hurting others in serious crashes is lower than middle-aged drivers and half that of young drivers.
"As we live and drive longer, it is not acceptable to stereotype the majority of older drivers who ensure they are fit to drive. The vast majority of these drivers are responsible, safe and well aware of their limitations but they do need help to keep them mobile and independent.
"Increasing the age of licence validity to 75 can be done without compromising safety and including an eyesight test is a welcome additional safeguard with which most drivers can easily comply.
"The role of the medical profession in providing advice, information and signposting to assessment courses is critical. Training doctors, nurses and carers in how to recognise the mobility needs of those consulting them must improve."