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LIFESTYLE TIPS

Elderly driving: What you need to know

Our guide explains what the law says about driving in later life, with facts, statistics and advice.

February 27, 2023

Elderly driver

Many older drivers very safely continue to enjoy the independence, freedom and convenience of using their car into later life, but there are more considerations for drivers as they age. There are different rules for keeping a driving licence after the age of 70 and it’s important to know what kinds of health conditions and other factors may also have an impact on older people and safe driving.

In this article, we look at considerations for older drivers, how elderly driving can be made safer and how loved ones can talk to and support an older person if there are potential concerns about driving safety or confidence when out on the roads.

Jump to:

Elderly driving statistics and facts

What’s the average age the elderly stop driving?

When should the elderly stop driving?

Talking to an elderly loved one about their driving

Elderly driving assessments

Tips for helping an older driver to stay safer on the roads

 

Elderly driving statistics and facts

  • In 2020, there were 6 million people in Great Britain aged over 70 with a full driving licence, which is 62% of all people in that age group.
  • This means 14% of all full car licence holders are aged 70 and older.
  • The average annual mileage of drivers over 70 is 1,665 miles, which is 28% lower than the average for all drivers across the age groups.
  • The cost of car insurance premiums reduces as drivers age (assuming no claims are made and depending on other risk factors, such as the car model and crime rates in the local area) until the age of 75, when they usually start to increase again.
  • Drivers need to reapply to the DVLA for their licence once they turn 70 years of age, and renew it every three years from that point.
  • The risk of a driver aged over 70 killing a pedestrian is lower than middle-aged drivers and half the risk of drivers aged 25 and under.

 

What’s the average age the elderly stop driving?

There is no specific age at which it’s required that elderly people stop driving, as this is a personal decision and circumstances are individual for everyone. A survey of drivers and former drivers over the age of 55 found that the average age they planned to or stopped driving was 82.

In Great Britain, driving licences expire when drivers turn 70 years old, but they can reapply for their licence to continue driving if they wish. Drivers approaching 70 will receive a letter from the DVLA around three months before their birthday so that they can renew if they wish, and online renewals are also available from 90 days before their 70th birthday.

On the licence renewal form, older drivers have to declare any medication conditions and also confirm that they still meet the requirements for eyesight to drive. This is the ability to read a car number plate from 20 metres away in daylight, using glasses or contact lenses if needed. These must also be worn whenever driving if they are needed to pass the eyesight requirements.

As long as an older driver meets all of the requirements, they can continue driving.

 

When should the elderly stop driving?

There can be many different reasons why people choose to stop driving for age-related reasons. These could include:

  • If their eyesight is deteriorating
  • If they develop a medical condition that could affect their driving safety
  • If they are prescribed certain long-term medications that might affect driving
  • If they notice that their reactions on the road are slower
  • If they lose confidence with driving or find it becoming more and more stressful.

If there is any doubt about any health conditions or medications and whether they have any implications for driving, it’s always wise for them to consult their GP.

As changes to things such as reaction times and eyesight can happen very gradually when related to age, it’s sometimes the case that the older driver doesn’t notice that anything is different and it might take someone else to spot that something isn’t quite right.

It could also be that the driver has an accident or a near miss when driving that could make them reassess how happy they are to continue driving, or could be concerning for loved ones.

Elderly couple going on driving holiday

 

Talking to an elderly loved one about their driving

If you’re concerned about an elderly loved one and their safety when driving, it can be a tricky subject to broach with them. For many older people, driving helps them to maintain their independence, gives them the freedom to travel when and where they want to and helps them to maintain their social interactions.

Having to change this can have a huge impact on their life, both practically and emotionally. However, if safety is a real concern, this is a conversation that might need to be had.

We’ve compiled some tips to help talk to elderly loved ones about changing their lifestyle and one of the things you could suggest is that they look into an elderly driving assessment.

 

Elderly driving assessments

An elderly driving assessment is where an experienced assessor accompanies the older driver on a journey driving around local roads, for up to an hour.

It’s an informal and confidential assessment and the elderly driver receives a report about their driving, which may include recommendations. This can be a really good option for drivers who want to make sure that they feel confident in their driving ability as they get older, and to get an expert option from someone they don’t know, who is totally independent, on how they are now driving.

Driver assessment

For older drivers who have certain medical conditions, it can sometimes be a requirement for their license from the DVLA that they take an assessment provided by a local Driving Mobility Centre to ensure that they are considered safe to drive. Find out more about driver assessments.

Older drivers assessment

 

Elderly driver 

Tips for helping an older driver to stay safer on the roads

When an older loved one wants to continue to drive and meets all of the DVLA requirements, there are some ways that you can help them to do so, as safely as possible. We’ve compiled a list of things to consider:

Ensure they are driving the right kind of car for their needs

Some older drivers can really benefit from driving a kind of car that makes things a little easier for them. For example:

  • A car with a fairly high driving position so that they get a better view of what’s going on around them
  • A car that has easy access, so that they don’t have issues getting in and out of it, or using the boot or rear seats when needed
  • A car that is the right size for their needs i.e. a smaller vehicle can be easier to handle and park if they mainly use it around town
  • A car with a comfortable interior
  • A car with a high safety rating (from Euro NCAP)
  • Consider whether a manual or automatic gearbox is best for them to use.

Ensure the car is properly maintained

While all cars older than three years need an annual MOT, there are other steps that can be taken to ensure that your older loved one’s vehicle is well-maintained and safe to be on the road, such as:

  • Getting the car serviced regularly, at least once a year or in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines
  • Regularly checking tyre condition and pressures
  • Regularly checking things like all of the lights, including indicators, are working
  • Regularly checking that the brakes work as they should
  • Regularly checking the wipers are still functioning as they should (clearing rain in a single wipe)
  • Regularly checking engine oil, water level, brake fluid level and washer fluid levels
  • Check that the locking wheel nuts are in the car and the elderly driver knows where they are kept.

Ensure they have the right level of breakdown cover

All breakdown policies are not equal and it can be quite confusing to understand what is covered by the different levels. There are also lots of companies to choose from, including car insurance from Age Co, so this can also make choosing cover more challenging. Some car insurance policies include breakdown cover, so this is also always worth checking.

Some of the features of breakdown cover that an older driver might find especially useful include:

  • Home-start – so that if the car won’t start when at home, they can receive help to get the vehicle going on the journey
  • Recovery of vehicle to home or a designated garage if it can’t be fixed at the roadside – so that they aren’t left stranded at a service station or another place away from home
  • Onward travel – so if they were on their way to something important, they can still get there.

It’s also important that if they do break down, they let their breakdown cover provider know when they call them that they are elderly, so that they can be treated as a priority for receiving assistance.

Help them plan longer journeys

If your older loved one is planning on driving a long way or taking the car on a UK holiday with them, for example, there can be extra precautions you could take. These could include:

  • Getting the vehicle checked by a mechanic before setting off to ensure it’s in good shape for the journey
  • Helping with a route plan, including what roads to take, where to take breaks/rests and a backup plan in case of unexpected road closures or traffic jams etc.
  • Making sure they have an emergency box in the boot just in case they break down, including things like an ice scraper and de-icer, a warm blanket, spare clothes, hat and gloves, a torch with spare batteries, a high-visibility jacket, a first aid kit, jump start cables, an empty fuel can, some snacks and water, warning triangle signs for if you break down in the road.

Consider a personal alarm with GPS so they can reach help in an emergency

While many older people will take a mobile phone with them when they drive, there are some situations in which a phone might not work or be the best way to reach out for assistance.

With a GPS-enabled personal alarm that is designed to be used when out and about, the alarm is worn by the elderly person (usually a pendant around the neck or on the wrist like a watch) so is always within reach.

A single press of the button is all that is needed to be connected to the 24/7 emergency resolution team. There’s no need to unlock a phone, find a number and press multiple buttons before you reach someone that can help.

Location-aware personal alarms will give an accurate GPS location, so your older loved one can always be found. It will work anywhere within the UK.

GPS alarms can have a long-life battery. Unlike many phones, which usually need charging daily, many personal alarm batteries last for much longer than this, so are ideal for use when travelling within the UK as well as when at home.

Personal alarms

If you’d like more information on how different types of personal alarm can help provide peace of mind for both you and your elderly loved one when driving or just for life in general, our team would love to help.

Freephone 0800 085 7371

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure

Ways to support independent living

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure


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