Despite high-profile calls for older drivers to be forced to retake their driving test, research shows that drivers over 70 years of age are actually amongst the safest on UK roads.
Former motor racing ace Sir Stirling Moss, ex-BBC newsreader Anna Ford, and Meredydd Hughes, chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, have all gone on record to suggest that compulsory retaking of driving tests by older drivers would improve road safety.
Stirling Moss said it would be a good idea for drivers to be re-evaluated at age 70 and then at five year intervals thereafter. Anna Ford believes that regular driving tests after the age of 70 should be introduced because cars are “lethal machines”, and Meredydd Hughes wants driver retesting to occur at several points during a motorist’s life.
No Case for Compulsory Retesting of Older Drivers
However, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) believes there is no convincing evidence to support compulsory retesting of older drivers at an arbitrary age.
After carrying out its own research, the IAM found that drivers over the age of 70 are actually less likely to be in a crash resulting in injury than drivers aged below 30.
It claims 8% of motorists are over 70, yet they are involved in 4% of crashes resulting in injury. On the other hand, 15% of motorists are under 30, yet are involved in 34% of crashes resulting in injury.
Why Might Older Drivers be Safer Drivers?
Reasons why older drivers tend to be safer than their youthful counterparts include:
Experience – There is no substitute for a lifetime of on-the-road experience. Older drivers who have seen it all, are often far more able to anticipate potential hazards than inexperienced road users.
Older drivers tend to take fewer trips at times when accidents are more likely to occur, e.g. in poor light, wet weather, or during rush hour.
Older drivers often adopt a more careful and restrained driving style, which can mean that they are less likely to speed or drive recklessly. This also means that when accidents do occur, resulting injuries and damage are often less serious, because of the lower speeds involved.
These factors are good news for older drivers looking for car insurance. Years of driving experience, statistical data indicating that they are less likely to be involved in a serious scrape, and other favourable rating factors, could all result in car insurance premiums that are cheaper for older drivers.
Current Driving Licence Rules for the Over 70s
It’s worth noting that driving licences do actually expire when a driver turns 70, and it must be renewed with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you want to continue driving, and then every three years thereafter.
This renewal is not a simple formality, and elderly drivers must declare whether they have certain medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive before being issued with a new licence. Follow the link to view DVLA medical conditions.
Are Driving Test Re-Sits at 70 Heading This Way?
Despite the calls in certain quarters for driving test re-sits for older drivers, the government has no plans to introduce such a measure at present. And this is something that the IAM is happy about, as it hopes more research and wider debate is undertaken before any kind of restricted licensing is introduced.