Driving in older age
Prince Philip’s car crash earlier this year sparked a debate around the safety of elderly drivers. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) the risk of being involved in a car accident increases after the age of 70 and is even higher in drivers over the age of 80. Prince Philip was 97 when he was forced to admit defeat and hand over the keys to his car.
Our population is getting older, with a large percentage of adults driving into their 70’s and 80’s and many older drivers are just as capable of driving safely as younger people. There is no legal requirement to stop driving at a certain age but UK drivers must legally review their license when they reach 70 years old (this does not involve retaking a driving test, it’s simply a case of filling out an application form). In this blog, we look at the physical and mental aspects of getting older that might contribute to needing to stop driving – and what to do if it’s the end of the road for an elderly driver…
As we get older, our hearing and eyesight deteriorate. This can cause significant issues with driving like reduced peripheral vision, which can impact the ability to judge distances safely, and hearing problems which make hearing oncoming traffic difficult. Arthritis is common in elderly people, their muscles weaken, and flexibility and coordination deteriorate. This may cause difficulties at junctions when they need to turn to see oncoming traffic clearly. There may also be some cognitive impairment as reaction times are impaired and we become slower to react to changes in the speeds of other vehicles, unable to cope with multiple signs, road markings and lack of awareness of other road users.
Driving means freedom and independence – and the last thing you may want to do is stop your elderly relative from getting behind the wheel. Before doing that, consider a change of car – something that is easier to drive. Avoid driving at night, in bad weather or long distances. A refresher test may also be an option. Their GP can advise if there are any specific health concerns – and if there’s any chance they are putting themselves or others at risk, then it may be time to take their keys away. But there’s no shortage of alternatives to driving:
- Get to know the local bus or train routes. Over 70s are entitled to free or subsidised bus and rail travel in the UK.
- Cycling and walking are both great ways for able older people to get regular, non-strenuous exercise.
- Community transport’ is typically run by the voluntary sector for the local community and on a not-for-profit basis.
- Family members, friends and neighbours may be able to offer lifts. It’s also worth being aware that a Blue Badge disabled parking permit can be used in any vehicle as long as the badge holder is present.
Losing access to driving isn’t the end of the world, but it will be a difficult transition. Ensuring the safety of your loved one is worth it.
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