How old is too old?

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Duke of Edinburgh made headlines after being involved in a crash near the Queen’s Sandringham estate where he was behind the wheel. The incident has since sparked discussions over Prince Philip continuing to drive at the age of 97.

 

While the number of people over 90 holding a driving licence in Britain has been on the rise, recently topping 100,000, driving in your 90s remains a contentious topic.

 

In November 2018, the number of over-70s in the UK holding full driving licences exceeded five million for the first time, according to figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA).

 

Despite crashes involving elderly drivers prompting calls for bans and driving restrictions, younger drivers still pose more of a risk.

 

AA president Edmund King said, “Young, predominantly male, drivers are much more likely to crash within six months of passing their test than older drivers within six months of hanging up their keys.”

 

"Older drivers often self-restrict their driving by not driving at night and only driving on familiar roads."

 

There were 11,245 people involved in road traffic accidents where the driver was over 70 – equating to two per 1,000 licence holders.

 

For Britain's 2.8 million drivers aged 17 to 24, the rate was more than four times as high, at nine per 1,000.

 

These figures don’t reflect whether the older age group were simply on the road less than younger drivers, but figures from a study conducted by the National Travel Survey suggests that over-70s drive an average of 1,000 miles a year more than under-20s.

 

In the UK, 110,790 people aged 90 or over still held driving licences, according to the figures released by the DVLA in November. There were 314 licence holders aged at least 100. The oldest were four people who were 107.

 

Once you reach 70, your driving licence automatically expires. To renew it, drivers must complete a self-assessment declaring they are medically fit to continue driving, but do not actually have to pass a test. You must then reapply every three years.

 

Legally, all drivers must be able to read a number plate from 20m away. The Association of Optometrists has called for all drivers to have compulsory eye tests every 10 years. It is also a legal requirement tell the DVLA if you develop any medical conditions that could affect your ability to drive safely.

 

Charity Director at Age UK, Caroline Abrahams, argued that age is a "pretty poor indicator" of driving ability. Abrahams said "we certainly don't think there is a place for arbitrary upper age limits for driving - the evidence suggests this would unfairly penalise many older people who are perfectly capable of driving safely."

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