It should not come as a surprise – giving our aging population – but the figure is still worth highlighting: the number of older people with driving licences has exceeded the four million mark.
Data analysed by the RAC Foundation shows there are now 4,018,900 men and women aged 70 or over who hold a valid full British licence.
Of these people, 191 are aged 100 or over. The oldest licence holder is recorded as being a woman aged 107. The oldest licence-holding man is 106.
While not all of these licence holders will be active drivers the statistics illustrate the growing number of older people who still use a car.
And the total is set to increase dramatically. The Government has predicted that of the UK citizens alive today, around ten million will reach their 100th birthday.
It is at age 70 – and every three years thereafter – that drivers must declare whether or not they are fit to drive. This self-declaration is not made on the basis of any formal medical or driving test, but relies on the judgement of the individual.
To help people make the right decision, Rica, a national research charity providing information to older and disabled consumers, has – with support from the RAC Foundation – published Driving safely for life. The guide is aimed at keeping older people mobile and safe for longer.
Many people continue to drive safely and with confidence as they age. However, experience in Australia and America suggests an estimated one in ten drivers continues to drive when they are not fit to do so. Also a third actually hang up the keys too early and risk exclusion from essential services and social activities.
The guide explains to older drivers:
- Exactly what the law says about ability to drive
- How they can best assess their capabilities, for example, by visiting a mobility centre
- What modifications can be made to their vehicles and their driving habits to keep them on the road longer
- How, if they do stop driving, they can still maintain a good quality of life
The guide is available from Rica and will also be promoted by local authorities, police authorities and other agencies as well as community groups.
All drivers should regularly consider their fitness to drive, but matters come to a head when we reach 70 and have to declare that we should be on the roads. In general, older drivers have an enviable safety record but it is clear that faced with this critical yes or no decision many motorists simply do not have a realistic view of their capabilities.
For those reliant on a car, giving up driving will have a huge impact on their ability to live an active life so it is important that they get all the help and support to make the right decision at the right time.
The RAC Foundation does not support compulsory retesting at a set age because this presumes that on reaching a particular birthday people’s physical and mental capacities change radically. But we do see an important need for an ongoing dialogue with motorists and encouragement from officials and the medical profession for all of us to regularly consider our abilities – whatever our age.