Dangers of older drivers getting behind the wheel

Dangers of older drivers getting behind the wheel: As Philip crashes, figures show the number of over 70s sent for extra testing has risen by a fifth

  • Number of older drivers referred for testing last year was up from 4,424 to 5,500
  • Older drivers are told to have regular tests to gauge vision and reaction speed 
  • Comes as part of a new campaign to raise awareness about the issue  

Prince Philip’s crash will spark more debate about the safety risks of older drivers staying on the roads.   

Figures show that over 2018, the number of drivers aged over 70 referred by the DVLA for extra testing increased by 20 per cent, from 4,424 to 5,500. 

However, AA president Edmund King today warned it would be wrong to use crashes by elderly drivers to call for bans. 

Figures show that in the past year, the number of drivers aged over 70 referred by the DVLA for extra testing has increased by 20 per cent, from 4,424 to 5,500. File photo

Mr King said: ‘We wish the Duke of Edinburgh well. Many commentators use high profile car crashes involving elderly drivers as a reason to call for bans or restrictions on older drivers.

‘If driving restrictions based on age and safety were introduced we would be more likely to restrict young drivers rather than older drivers.

‘Young, predominantly male, drivers are much more likely to crash within 6 months of passing their test than older drivers within 6 months of hanging up their keys.’

Mr King said that older drivers usually restricted themselves to only going out in the daytime and on familiar roads.  

‘The decision to hang up your keys is a tough one but should be based on personal advice from your GP and family rather than being based on some arbitrary age,’ he added. 

‘We all age differently and the car is an essential lifeline for many elderly people.’

However, other figures give a different picture. 

Drivers over 65 were responsible for eight per cent of the total driving offences committed in 2017, compared to three per cent committed by under-22-year-olds.


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The over-70s are twice as likely as 17-year-olds to be pulled over for speeding offences, and three times more likely to misread traffic or road signals. 

According to Driving Mobility, the UK’s only provider of medical driving assessments, more than half of these pensioners will fail these tests and see their licences revoked as a result.

Although it is generally assumed that reckless younger drivers are the biggest danger, new DVLA figures prove this isn’t the case.

Drivers over 65 were responsible for eight per cent of the total driving offences committed in 2017, compared to three per cent committed by under-22-year-olds.

The over-70s are twice as likely as 17-year-olds to be pulled over for speeding offences, and three times more likely to misread traffic or road signals.

While young men remain responsible for the most fatalities, risky driving among the five million pensioners on the road is becoming a growing concern – especially as the number of OAPs on the roads increases by 750,000 every year.

Drivers aged 80 or over are four times as likely to crash than others, says Sergeant Rob Heard, a road safety officer for Hampshire Police, who also runs The Older Drivers Forum – an organisation that ‘keeps older drivers on the road safely, for longer’.

According to charities the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Action on Hearing Loss, a quarter of drivers over 70 suffer from ill health, three-quarters struggle with hearing and half will lose at least some of their sight.

Those over 70 who have regular eye tests and driving appraisals every two to three years are far less likely to be involved in a crash, and end up driving for longer. File photo 

While all this is a natural result of ageing, on the roads a mere squint could mean the difference between life and death.

A recent report by the Association of Optometrists found that the vision quality among as many as a third of all drivers falls below legal standards.

It is estimated that more than 2,000 accidents could be avoided each year if regular eyesight checks were in place.

The UK has some of the most lax visibility laws in Europe, with no mandatory eye exams involved in driving tests at any age – apart from reading a number plate 20 yards in the distance during your original driving test.

Those over 70 who have regular eye tests and driving appraisals every two to three years are far less likely to be involved in a crash, and end up driving for longer, according to Sgt Heard.

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