Elderly drivers could face eyesight checks and retesting despite 'very difficult' proposals

Elderly drivers

Older motorists must renew their licence every three years once they reach 70

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 24/11/2023

- 09:09

There are estimated to be almost six million drivers over the age of 70 on the roads today

Experts have analysed whether new rules should be introduced to require elderly motorists to retake their driving test or have more frequent eye checks once they reach a certain age.

When a driver reaches the age of 70 years old, they must renew their licence every three years, rather than every 10 years like other age groups.

Drivers will be reminded of the licence changes 90 days before their 70th birthday to ensure everyone knows of the new rules.

There are estimated to be almost six million drivers over the age of 70 on the roads today, with this number expected to rise further in the coming years.

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The UK has an ageing population, with two million more drivers on the road over 70 than there were 10 years ago – making up around 14 per cent of all licence holders.

Edmund King, AA president, explained how the most dangerous drivers on the road today are in the 17 to 24 age group, with young motorists more likely to be seriously injured or killed than other age groups.

The only time when elderly drivers are more dangerous than newly qualified motorists is once they reach the age of 86 when the rate of danger increases again.

Some road safety organisations have suggested and backed the idea of eyesight tests being part of the renewal process to ensure everyone on the road remains safe.

Rob Heard, Chair of the Older Drivers Forum, said: “We estimated that there are around 900,000 on the road driving with defective eyesight. It’s a shocking amount.”

He added that it was very difficult for family and friends to raise the issue of eyesight to older drivers.

There have been suggestions from some groups for drivers to obtain a health certificate, although this has been trialled in other countries with concerns that people would have a massive shift in their relationship with their doctor, which could have serious consequences.

Many elderly drivers feel like they would lose a part of their identity if they had to give their licence up and stop driving, as Professor Charles Musselwhite highlighted on ITV’s Tonight programme, hosted by motoring expert Ginny Buckley.

The Professor of Psychology at Aberystwyth University added: “Lots of older people who do give up driving end up feeling very isolated. They can feel no longer part of society.

“It can signify, at least, the early onset of things like dementia or cognitive problems. The people that give up driving successfully without any of those negative side effects are those that have planned way in advance.

“They’ve got friends and families that help them with lifts. They’re more likely to have used different modes of transport throughout their life.”

This includes Richard, who gave up his licence after a nasty fall, saying he lost the confidence to drive, resulting in him selling his beloved car.

However, the 86-year-old admits that he doesn’t get around anymore, aside from walking around his local estate, opting instead to have his shopping delivered to his house.

Edmund King reacted to suggestions that older drivers should retest once they reach 70, saying: “At the moment, it is very difficult for new drivers.

“In many areas, there’s something like a six-month delay – there’s a 500,000 [test] backlog.


Driving test booking website

There is still an enormous backlog for driving tests


“If you then add in checks for older drivers, it really would set the calendar back by years.”

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