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Old people waiting to cross the road

Image via Flickr User Garry Knight

When is it time to maybe give up driving?

With advances in medicine, changes to lifestyle and progression in technology, people are living longer than ever and this also means that there are more and more older drivers on UK roads. In fact, the AA has predicted that "the number of older drivers on the roads has been increasing steadily and this is expected to continue. By 2030 more than 90% of men over 70 will be behind the wheel."

With this in mind, and with more than one eye on the future, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has launched a website aimed at helping older people adapt to changes in their driving to stay safe on the road.

*According to the Royal Geographical Society, reporting some United Nations statistics,"life

The Older Drivers Website

Using funding from the Department of Transport, the road safety charity has set up www.olderdrivers.org.uk with lots of advice and information for older drivers in a bid to help them to drive safely for longer.

Obviously, the website is fully aware that the older we get as drivers, the more experience we gain - which is why insurance companies consider older drivers to be better 'risks' as they are regarded as safer and more considerate drivers.

However ,as we get older, our health and fitness often begins to decline, with our eyesight, physical condition and reaction times possibly reducing in direct correlation to our advancing age; and age related conditions or necessary medication also affecting abilities.

It takes a strong person to accept these changes, and also to realise that the world around us has changed also with new technology available to help, and cars getting faster too! So this is why the RoSPA has set the website up, presumably in the hope that silver surfers can find and read it, with tips on how older people can update their driving skills and knowledge so that the freedom and independence that driving gives them can be maintained in a safe environment for both themselves and other road users. (If the drivers themselves don't read it, then the opportunity is also there for families and friends of older drivers to point it out or read it themselves if they are concerned about someone's driving.)

The website is designed to help drivers:

  • recognise whether and how their driving is changing 
  • find out what they can do to cope with these changes, such as change when and where they drive, adapt their car or take driver assessment or training
  • find local driving assessment or refresher training
  • understand the law about health conditions and driving and how to renew their driving licence
  • plan for the need to change when and where they drive, and if it becomes necessary, to retire from driving.

Older Drivers' Driving Conditions

It is difficult to maybe accept as an older driver that things may not be as they should be when it comes to driving abilities, but it is a part of UK Road Law that we are personally responsible for making sure that we are fit to drive. Some physical or medical conditions must, by law, be reported to the DVLA while other conditions that may affect your driving do not need to be reported, but you need to be aware of their effects because some conditions get worse over time, so it is vitally important that you regularly monitor how they affect your driving, and to take advice from a doctor, pharmacist or other medical professional.

There are some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines that can have an effect on the skills needed to drive safely as you can read in this blog here that we posted in April 2014 - and can also lead to a conviction for drug driving. There will have been additions to this list since then, so the it is a good idea to check to see if the medication you (or they) are taking is likely to affect driving ability with detriment to safety by asking a doctor, healthcare professional or pharmacist.

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety, said: “The older we are, the more experience we have as drivers. This is one of the reasons why older drivers tend to be safer and more considerate drivers. However, our health and fitness often begins to decline as we grow older. Our eyesight, physical condition and reaction times may not be as good as they once were, and we may develop age-related conditions, or be taking medications that can affect our driving."

As Kevin says, besides physical condition and medication, a driver's eyesight will deteriorate over the years, and whatever age you are, in good daylight, you must be able to read a vehicle number plate from a distance of 20 metres (or from a distance of 20.5 metres for old style number plates). To see how eye conditions affect what we can see through a driver's windscreen, take a look at the website's Eyesight page here

Another factor that the Government says affects driving ability is age - something none of us can do about! And it is often overlooked by the more mature driver that driving licences expire at 70 years of age. So, at the age of 70, and for every three years after that, a driver needs to renew their driving licence if they wish to continue driving. You can read about how to do this, and other factors that are connected to it, on the Older Drivers website here

Drivers need to keep to the rules of the UK Road Law, some of which you can read here on our UK Road Law guide, and it doesn't matter how old you are, as Kevin says: “Many older drivers recognise that their driving ability is changing and alter when and where they drive to compensate – but not all drivers do this. There comes a time when each of us needs to reduce our driving, or even stop altogether. Of course, this is different for each person; there isn't an age at which we automatically become unsafe to drive."

That last statement may make a lot of people tut rather loudly and maybe take a sharp breath, especially if they have been sat behind a 'mature' driver on a road where it is difficult to pass, with people sometime considering older drivers and their driving 'ability' a cause of angry driving, but roads are for all, and this website should be deemed is a great step forwards in the search for safer roads.

We will leave the last words to Kevin Clinton: “The aim of the website is to help older people to continue to drive for as long as they are safe to do so, and to provide advice on making the decision to retire from driving if they are no longer able to drive safely.”

That website again: www.olderdrivers.org.uk