Elderly drivers shouldn’t be punished for motoring offences as most are 'very safe'

The ‘Older Drivers Task Force’ safety report suggests that drivers over the age of 70 should be allowed to have their driving skills assessed rather than face fines or penalty points on their licence.  That would be despite breaking driving laws like running red lights, driving too slowly or displaying poor discipline on motorways. 

Fitness to Drive assessments are currently only run by a few police forces including Hampshire, where occupational therapists and instructors decide if someone is safe behind the wheel. 

If not they are sent away for lessons or have their license revoked. 

The report says that rolling these assessments out for elderly drivers nationwide would reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries in the over-70s, which they are urging the Government to try to halve by 2030.

“Allowing older drivers to remain mobile is critical to their mental and physical wellbeing, but so is safety,” said Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation.

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“A system which helps people address their shortcomings rather than simply penalises them could help maintain this balance.”

The report also recommends that older drivers undertake mandatory eyesight tests at 70 and that research is done into the causes of pedal confusion, alongside a programme to improve safety at T junctions.

Department for Transport figures show there are 5.7 million people in Britain aged 70 and over with a full driving licence, including 489 who are at least 100.

“Most older drivers are very safe and self-regulate their driving, avoiding travelling at night or during rush hour, for example,” said Gooding.

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“But any encouragement we can all be given to reassess our ability to drive safely should be welcomed, not just after an incident but throughout our driving lives.”

Yearly car driver fatalities among the 70-79 age group are forecast to surge by 40 percent over the next 20 years due to Britain’s ageing population.

But, the task force believes elderly drivers are unfairly represented in serious crashes due to their ‘relative frailty’ and do not pose a significant risk to other road users.

“We want to increase the pace of progress to ensure that we do not see the expected rise in the number of older drivers killed or seriously injured in road crashes,” said Dr Suzy Charman, Executive Director of the Road Safety Foundation which published the report. 

“Key recommendations such as introducing mandatory eye tests at licence renewal at age 70 are considered essential and lifesaving.”

Deaths on UK roads involving elderly drivers increased by 8 percent between 2018 and 2019 before the COVID 19 pandemic,

A total of 637 people aged 60 and over killed in accidents compared with 588 in the previous 12 months. 

But the Department for Transport believes this rise may have something to do with the number of people in the age-range increasing by two percent since 2018.

According to data gathered by the Older Drivers Task Force, “drivers over the age of 70 are less likely to be involved in crashes involving speed, loss of control or alcohol.”

Currently there is no upper-limit on the age people can drive in the UK.

Although after reaching 70, drivers must renew their license every three years.

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