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Older Drivers vs Younger Drivers - Which Is a Greater Risk?

There are arguments for and against letting older drivers on the road

The recent high profile road accident involving the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, has raised a number of questions about the upper age limit people should be allowed to continue driving, and whether or not the Government needs to have a re-think about the rules.

At present, we can legally drive until the age of 70 and then it becomes time to renew our driving licence, a procedure that must be completed every three years thereafter.

If, at any time, you should develop any illness or condition that impacts upon your ability to drive safely then you must inform the DVLA or the DVA if you live in Northern Ireland. And if any existing conditions worsen, the DVLA must once again be notified - these are the legal rules not just for the elderly, but for everyone driving on the roads. Failure to adhere could lead to fines of £1,000 and, if you are involved in an accident, it’s very likely your insurance would be invalid.

Once you have informed the DVLA about a medical condition, it does not automatically mean you will never drive again. They decide whether or not you can continue to drive based on the information you have provided. Or they may want a GP or consultant’s input. They can also ask you to take a driving assessment.

Arguments for and against letting older drivers on the road

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For example, they have more experience so should be better than younger motorists. And according to Brake, the road safety charity, research indicates that drivers aged between 60 and 69 actually have less than half the number of accidents of drivers aged from 20 to 29. But the charity also points out that the risk of a person aged 60 or older involved in a crash be it on foot, bicycle or vehicle being killed, is more than double that of a younger person.

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And although the figures suggest older people are involved in less accidents than younger motorists, on average they tend not to drive as far or go out as much in poor driving conditions or at night.

As we age, a number of changes occur that can have a dramatic effect on the way we drive. Our hearing, eyesight, reaction times and all-round mobility deteriorates gradually. In addition, many older drivers may be on regular medication and this could also have a detrimental impact on reaction times and awareness levels.

It’s vitally important that elderly drivers have regular health checks with their GP to make sure they are fit to drive, although the fear of being advised against getting behind the wheel could act as a deterrent.

As far as eyesight goes

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You must be able to read a vehicle registration plate from 20 metres away in good daylight. You must have a good field of vision, and, if you are prescribed glasses or contact lenses, you must wear them.

Another aspect that older motorists should consider is their car. Safety features, especially driver aids, are incredibly advanced in newer vehicles and many feature city brake assist systems that can automatically help prevent a bump at lower speeds. Accidents involving older vehicles can be a lot more severe as they often have less crash protection and the shock, along with longer health recovery times, can be dangerous for older people.

But with our ageing population a real factor, we need to be aware that people are living longer and that driving a car offers real independence before we hastily take a person’s licence away. However, Brake is a campaigner for greater investment in affordable, safe and reliable public transport to ensure older people have a decent alternative to get out and about.

In the meantime though, if you are unsure whether or not you need to report any medical condition, then consult your GP or ask the DVLA or DVA for advice.

Being an older driver I was brought up on cars with dicky brakes,cross ply tyres and no safety aids on cars. You could not afford another car for £99 down and monthly payments. You knew how to change a wheel, where to put fluids in an engine and recognise the noises created when something goes wrong. I watch people exit their houses in the morning and waft off to wherever they are going. Did they do a cursory check as ADVISED to do by the handbook ? Was one tyre low on the nearside? Was the screenwash full enough to do the journey..etc etc. They are protected !! By what ? Safety systems and warning lights. If they break down they will be recovered. If they crash the insurance (sorry all premiums will go up folks). They will get a free hire car and so on it goes. There is the assumption that everything will work but sometimes it does not. How many cars do you see with faulty lights ? The driving test covers the basics and then you are on your own. It was mid summer when you took your test and now you are qualified to drive 2 inches (or should it be 5cm) from my back bumper with an inch (2.54cm) of snow or even black ice. Some seem to think that just because they have 200bhp under the bonnet that every single one of those has to be used !!! They forget that they have the same amount of rubber on the road as I have and this applies to 4x4 in snow when they have to stop. Nothing beats experience when it comes to driving and fortunately I was brought up in an era when you put the key in a car and prayed to Allah that it would start. Anyone else remember the days when you parked a car on a hill so that it would start in the morning !!! How many older drivers drive so close behind you that you cannot see their headlights ?

I'm not an older driver yet but not sure I understand this: ".... drivers aged between 60 and 69 actually have less than half the number of accidents of drivers aged from 20 to 29. But the charity also points out that the risk of a person aged 60 or older involved in a crash be it on foot, bicycle or vehicle being killed, is more than double that of a younger person". There may be more risk factors from the hazards encountered but may are mitigated, the final risk may or may not be a fatal crash. A lot of older drivers have relatively newer cars, not all youngster can afford new cars. Younger drivers have different risk factors but still have fatal crashes. Have I misunderstood some thing ?

I too am over 70. My father was an advanced motorist and fit to drive and not frighten his passengers well into his eighties. My mother was a complete liability from her 60's onwards. My point is that no two elderly people are the same, drive the same distance, or have the same experience and capability. I regularly come up behind people who quite clearly should not be on the road. I laugh at people with no parallel parking skill. Not all, by any means, are elderly. I'm all for some form of test of experience, but let it apply to everyone: daft youngsters, aggressive drivers, immigrants, LGBT people WASPs, whingers, members of Brake, drivers of German cars, Londoners, Scots, whatever! While we are on, the biggest hazard by far, comes not from elderly drivers, but from cyclists. Yes. Let's have a debate but let's make it all-inclusive and not leave any road-users out.

If an older driver is hit by a reckless younger driver then there is an accident. (or an incident ) It is the person responsible for an accident that they are counting. As for youngsters owning older cars being questioned I think you should look at a/ the power you can buy for very little money these days and b/ the fact that new cars can be bought on attractive plans. Look on regit to see the fact that big powerfull cars often lose the most money and cost less than new models with half the power.