Can You Ever Be Too Old to Drive?

Can You Ever Be Too Old to Drive?

Currently, there is no upper age limit for driving a car. All drivers have to renew their licence once they reach the age of 70 and every 3 years thereafter.

Those approaching their 70th birthday will be sent a renewal form by the DVLA. When completing the form you have to confirm any medical conditions you may have. Your eyesight must also meet the requirements for driving.

So why are we still driving into our twilight years?

Figures show that with the introduction of the NHS our life expectancy has increased. Living longer, having children later and working longer can all cause the continued use of a motor vehicle.

Technological features all make driving a car for the older person easier and safer. These include:

• cruise control
• power assisted steering
• self parking
• reverse warning or blind spot sensors
• rear cameras
• seats with lumbar support
• and adjustable steering wheels

It may surprise many that the estimate of over 4 million drivers are aged over 70. A little over 200 people aged over 100 are still driving too. With the growing population and longer lifespan, this is only going to increase.

For years there have been arguments for and against allowing the elderly to continue driving. The argument for the “Silver Surfers” is usually upheld by those past the ages of retirement. Most feel that they are still active, capable and don’t want to loose their independence. Those against the “Geriatric Trundlers” are the usually younger generations. Some feel that their elders have poorer eyesight and reactions/reflexes.

To class everyone over the age of 70 unfit to drive would be wrong. A senior citizen is no more likely than anyone else to cause an accident. A mature driver has greater experience and adopts a more careful and restrained driving style to the young in what has been termed as the “boy racer”.

Regardless of this, people latch on to stories of the aged mistaking accelerate for reverse or driving the wrong way down a motorway. With regular calls for the over 70’s to self-certify their own capability to drive.

The awkward moment; how to tell your aged relative or friend it’s time to give up driving

To tell someone that they are past it is a very hard thing to do. If you have any concerns about an elderly person’s driving address the matter sooner rather than later. A delay in doing so could be fatal.

Plan what you want to say and if you can talk it over with a close friend or relative first, do so. One who has already had experience of either side of this particular coin would be a good choice.

Take time to consider the drivers’ point of view. It isn’t only a reminder of a growing inability to take care of themselves the lack of independence, of mobility, the inconvenience of using Public Transport and the practical issues such as the weekly shop.

Giving up driving could also have an effect on where they live, whom they can see and what interests and leisure activities they can pursue. This won’t be a one chat and it’s agreed, car keys handed over and the car is up for sale the next day. Unfortunately, this might seem a simple health and safety issue but to them, it represents an end to the life as they know it.

Don’t go in all guns blazing, think of this as an opening discussion, a way to broach the subject so it can be dealt with. You may need to revisit the subject on a couple of occasions. Remember, unless they are suffering from dementia it’s not up to you to demand the person immediately stops driving. If you think that it is for the best, they are adults and as such you need to respect their rights.

But, if all else fails and you have real concerns over a person’s fitness to drive you can contact the D.V.L.A. They promise anonymity and will write to the driver requesting they see their doctor to complete a form. Unfortunately, if the doctor agrees that they meet the Medical Standard of Fitness and signs the form, the DVLA has no power to revoke the licence. It would be against the driver’s Human Rights, but if the worst happens, at least your conscience is clear!