Road safety experts have recommended raising the mandatory fitness to drive self-declaration for licence renewal from 70 to 75 years old – if proof of an eye sight test is made compulsory.

The recommendations are made by the UK’s Older Drivers Task Force which has published ‘Supporting Safe Driving into Old Age’, a report setting out a national older driver strategy. The Task Force, welcomed by Government, was managed by the Road Safety Foundation and supported by Ageas, the third largest motor insurer in the UK.

More than 25 experts and organisations in transport, health, policing, licensing, car manufacturing and insurance collaborated to produce the report, led by Chairman John Plowman. Analysing the latest international evidence, available technology and road safety schemes, the Task Force made seven key recommendations for government and other stakeholders.

The emphasis is for government and industry to 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.

Recommendations included:

  1. 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
  2. Requiring the DVLA to get evidence of an eyesight test at licence renewal
  3. 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
  4. Improving road design, signs and markings to meet the highest international standards specifically to aid older drivers but bringing benefits for all drivers
  5. Evaluating existing driving appraisal courses and improving information provided to older drivers, their families, and medical professionals
  6. Piloting new products which offer an alternative to driving for older people
  7. Pooling insurer data and research into major claims involving older drivers to understand the detailed causes

The Older Drivers Task Force looked at academic evidence base, the latest in vehicle, road and information technology, and reviewed best practice examples of support and self-help schemes.

John Plowman, chairman of the Older Drivers Task Force, 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 1 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.”

John Plowman added: “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 ten times more at risk of being killed than people half their age.”

Andrew Jones MP, Minister for Road Safety, said:

“Any death on the road is a tragedy and we are committed to improving road safety including exploring issues faced by older drivers.”

“Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world and we must strike the right balance between safety and personal mobility and we will carefully consider the recommendations.

“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.”

View the report: Supporting Safe Driving into Old Age