On the 17th January 2019 the Duke of Edinburgh, aged 97, was involved in a road traffic collision whilst leaving the Sandringham Estate onto the A149.

Whilst no one was seriously injured in the accident, it has raised a number of questions regarding the rising number of older drivers on the road and the potential dangers this presents.

The number of people over 90 holding a driving licence in Britain has been on the increase and most recently topped 100,000.

Do older drivers present an increased danger compared to younger drivers?

Whilst the number of over-70s holding a driving licence passed the five million mark for the first time in 2018, figures suggest that older drivers are no more a danger than younger drivers.

According to the DVLA in November 2018, there were 5.3 million over-70s with full driving licences in Britain. Of those, only 11,245 people involved in road traffic accidents – a rate of two per 1,000 licence holders.

In comparison there were 2.8 million drivers aged 17 to 24, the rate was more than four times as high, at nine per 1,000.

A further study from Swansea University found drivers aged 70 were involved in 3 to 4 times fewer accidents than men aged between 17-21.

The Law as it stands for Older Drivers

Currently once you reach 70 years of age, your driving licence automatically expires. To continue driving, you must renew your driver’s licence every three years by completing a self-assessment declaring you are medically fit to continue driving. Most surprisingly you do not actually have to pass a test.

To drive legally for all road users, you must also be able to read a number plate from 20m (65ft) away. Whilst The Association of Optometrists have called for those behind the wheel to have compulsory eye tests every 10 years, this recommendation has not been implemented. You do however have to inform the DVLA if you develop any medical conditions that could affect your ability to drive safely.

The Older Drivers website, set up by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, says the driver should be the one to decide when it’s time to stop driving unless you are medically unfit to drive. However friends, family or your GP can assist as they can help identify problems which may not have been noticed.

What signs to look for in older drivers?

When determining whether it is safe to allow older drivers to continue on the road, The Older Drivers Forum have provided a number of key signs to consider:-

  • Slower reaction times
  • Difficulty in turning to see when reversing
  • Keeping a foot on the brake
  • Other drivers sounding their horns at them
  • Incorrect signals
  • Hitting the kerb
  • Trouble making manoeuvres
  • Confusion at junctions and exits
  • Over-revving the engine, especially on low-speed manoeuvres
  • Difficulties with low-light or night-time driving
  • Avoidance of driving to new or unfamiliar places
  • Scrapes and dents in the car

Should you recognise any of the above signs in either yourself or a member of your family, it may be time to consider your/their future on the road.

If you have been injured in a road accident that wasn’t your fault, speak to our experienced personal injury solicitors who can help you claim the compensation you deserve. You can contact us here or call 0845 287 0939.