Older motorists that run red lights, have poor motorway lane discipline, and drive too slowly should have a fitness to drive evaluation rather than be prosecuted in the UK, the Road Safety Foundation proposes. Its report argues that assessments would cut the number of older motorists that die on the road. The suggestion is that it is fair to be lenient as they are more likely to offend by mistake than on purpose. Because they are confused, for example.
If the proposal comes to fruition, offending motorists aged 70+ could have their fitness to drive evaluated by an occupational therapist or instructor. Those that are physically and mentally capable could be sent on their way, presumably with a little guidance that reduces any risk of further offending. Drivers that can no longer handle a vehicle safely would have their licence revoked by the DVLA. Some might then have lessons and be rechecked.
Either way, motorists that are assessed would not be fined or receive penalty points for any offences. The emphasis would be assessment and education only, rather than punishment. As of now, only a handful of police forces offer fitness to drive evaluations.
The Road Safety Foundation is keen to asses older drivers as they represent a large percentage of the population. In Britain, there are 5.7 million aged 70+ with a full driving licence. 489 of these are aged at least 100. Such figures are expected to rise in the coming years as there is an ageing population. The number of collisions involving older drivers is expected to rise accordingly.
The Foundation further argues that there should be ‘mandatory’ sight tests for motorists from age 70, safer T junctions, and research to establish why some older drivers accidentality press the wrong peddles. The throttle rather than the brake, for example.
Road Safety Foundation Executive Director, Dr Suzy Charman, confirms: 'We want to increase the pace of progress to ensure we do not see the expected rise in the number of older drivers killed or seriously injured in road crashes. We hope the Department for Transport welcomes the report and can provide the leadership necessary to ensure these recommendations are taken forward’, she adds.
RAC supports assessment
Director of the RAC Foundation, Steve Gooding, supports the proposals. ‘Allowing older drivers to remain mobile is critical to their mental and physical well-being – but so is safety’, he stresses. 'A system which helps people address their shortcomings rather than simply penalises them could help maintain the balance.’