When getting older, it’s almost an inevitability that some simple physical tasks will becoming harder. Driving is one such task and a few unfortunate instances of dangerous driving caused by elderly people has raised questions over whether the elderly should be able to drive at all. The legislation at the moment does not have a maximum age for driving – in fact, there are over 200 people on the UK roads whose age is in to three figures! All that is required for over-70s is to fill in a self-assessment form and state they are physically fit to drive in order to renew their license every three years. There are no medical checks or practical tests. However, some may suggest is this too trusting. Should we be doing something more?
What Are the Arguments for a Retake of a Driving Test?
The most salient argument to re-test the over-70s is the simple fact that it may have been over 50 years since their last practical test. A car insurance provider found that one in five motorists over fifty believe they would fail their driving test if they had to retake it today. It’s a long period of time, so forgetting traffic signals and not understanding good practice on much busier roads is plausible.
That doesn’t take into account the physical capabilities required to drive safely. The self-assessment requires you to admit health problems and that often poses a problem within itself. Even small problems that might enable you to continue driving but inhibit your abilities slightly could cause a major increase in car insurance cost. Essentially, those with physical issues are incentivised to keep them hidden and the current system enables people to hide health issues. Even in perfectly healthy over-70s the ability to react quickly, as is often required on the road, is – on average – much slower than in younger people.
What Does the Evidence Really Show About Over-70s?
However, the actual facts tell a slightly different story. Statistically, those over 70 are less likely to have an accident on the road than 18-20 year olds. More middle-aged drivers kill pedestrians through dangerous driving too. So, there is a suggestion that people are simply being “ageist”.
With these facts so prominent, it would surely be harsh to take away the ability of the over-70s to drive. Particularly as pensioners tend to rely on their cars to see relatives and live a prosperous retirement. Another factor that should be raised is 70 is an arbitrary number. A 60-year-old could be physically incapable of driving, for example. Furthermore, if you are capable of driving at 70, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be capable of driving at 72.
It’s clear more thought needs to be put into the problem but, given the statistics, it does seem somewhat “ageist” to impose a compulsory test for over-70s. Perhaps medical reports from GPs and outside influencers like concerned family should play more of a role to suggest a re-test to authorities. Regardless, the solution doesn’t appear to be as simple as re-test for the over 70s.