Older drivers quitting too early - report claims
Published on 28 February 2013 11:30 AM
Many motorists are surrendering their driving licences too soon by misjudging their motoring capabilities, research has shown.
An RAC Foundation report has questioned whether motorists self-assessing their abilities from the age 70 and over is the right policy.
The study, called Driving Choices for the Older Motorist, said that due to distorted individual perceptions too many drivers are leaving the roads too soon, while others are carrying on when they are no longer fit to drive.
Researchers have predicted that out of the British drivers set to turn 70 this year, 170,000 will give up their motors prematurely.
Meanwhile, it is estimated that up to 50,000 will stay behind the wheel longer than they should.
Under current motoring regulations, from the age of 70 drivers have to complete declarations saying they are fit to continue driving every three years.
Retesting is not the answer
The findings, compiled by the Transport Research Laboratory on behalf of RAC Foundation, suggests motorists need more support to make accurate decisions.
The study examined data from the United States and Australia, concluding that self-assessment tools alone are not adequate, but stopped short of advocating compulsory re-testing. There haven't been any specific studies on this issue in Britain.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said retesting is not the answer because doing so would presume that a certain age was linked with physical and mental capacities changing radically.
However, he added that introducing more of a dialogue over the issue could help motorists create a clearer picture of whether they can stay on the roads.
Increased support to help drivers make an accurate decision
The research recommends increased support from the Government and medical professionals to help drivers reach an accurate conclusion.
Prof Glaister said that all drivers, irrespective of age, should be constantly thinking about whether they are capable of being safe on the roads, but this only becomes a formal requirement at the age of 70.
He stressed that older drivers have an 'enviable safety record' in general, but when presented with this 'yes or no' scenario they do not have a realistic view of how they are behind the wheel.
Prof Glaister added that for drivers who surrender their motors too soon, it can have a dramatic impact on their quality of life, with them no longer able to enjoy social activities or access certain services.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK commented, 'Ability not age should determine how safe someone is on the road. When it comes to driving everyone is responsible, at whatever age, for making sure they are safe on the road.
'What is important is that there is support and advice available to help people decide whether to continue driving, plus better information about car adaptations which could make driving easier and safer.'
Copyright Press Association 2013