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Prince Philip's car crash sparks debate on testing drivers over 70

Eleanor Newis
Jan 22, 2019

The number of older drivers referred for testing has risen in the UK.

Prince Philip’s car crash could be about to spark more debate about the safety of older drivers staying on Britain’s roads.

Figures show that throughout 2018, the number of drivers aged over 70 that were referred by the DVLA for extra testing increased by 20%. This was an increase from 4,424 to 5,500.

Yet the AA president Edmund King has also warned that it would be wrong to use crashes had by elderly drivers to call for bans or age limits.

He said: ‘We wish the Duke of Edinburgh well. Many commentators use high profile car crashes involving elderly drivers as a reason to call for bans or restrictions on older drivers.

‘If driving restrictions based on age and safety were introduced we would be more likely to restrict young drivers rather than older drivers.

‘Young, predominantly male, drivers are much more likely to crash within 6 months of passing their test than older drivers within 6 months of hanging up their keys.’

King also said that elderly motorists normally restrict themselves to only going out during the daytime and using familiar roads.

‘The decision to hang up your keys is a tough one but should be based on personal advice from your GP and family rather than being based on some arbitrary age.

‘We all age differently and the car is an essential lifeline for many elderly people.’

However, these figures paint a different picture. Drivers over 65 were responsible for 8% of the total driving offences in the UK in 2017, compared to only 3% committed by people under 22.

The over-70s are twice as likely as those aged 17 to be pulled over for speeding, and three times more likely to misread road or traffic signals.

Driving Mobility, the UK’s provider for medical driving assessments, says that more than half of these pensioners will fail their tests and have their licenses revoked as a result.

Although it is normally issues that younger drivers are reckless, and the biggest danger, these new figures from the DVLA indicate this isn’t the case.

As well as this being a natural result of ageing, it is thought that it could be a visibility problem. A recent report by the Association of Optometrists found that the vision quality of as many as a third of UK drivers could be below legal standards.

It is estimated that the country could avoid more than 2,000 accidents each year by putting in place regular eyesight checks. 

The UK has some of the most lax laws regarding roads and visibility in Europe — there are no mandatory eye tests at any age for driving. Those over 70 who have regular eye tests and driving appraisals every two to three years are much less likely to involved in a crash, and they end up driving for longer.

As you get older, finding a reasonably priced car insurance policy becomes more difficult, as insurers use customer’s ages as an excuse to raise their premiums. But there are ways you can keep your premium down. 

You can make sure you get regular eyesight checks and inform your insurer about them. You should also be using a price comparison site like A Spokesman Said to find the best deal for you — this way you can stay safe on the roads for longer.


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