Churchill magazine

Are older drivers a bigger risk on the road?

Updated on: 16 June 2021

An elderly man drives a car.

Older drivers can often be more cautious and considerate when they're driving – they typically have many years of experience. But they may also need to take more care on the road, as vision, hearing and responses can be affected by age.

What can you do to stay safe on the road?

  • Have regular vision and hearing examinations.
  • Use medication correctly, and know how it could affect your driving.
  • Look out for vehicles entering the road, pedestrians, cyclists and parked cars.
  • Check your rear-view mirror and outside mirrors frequently.
  • Maintain your three-second stopping distance.
  • When driving in the rain or in winter, reduce speed and increase following distance.
  • Avoid driving at dusk or dawn when visibility is difficult.
  • Avoid driving for long periods of time.
  • Minimise background noise: keep radio, air conditioning and heaters low or off.
  • Never drive after drinking.

This advice should be followed by all drivers, not only the elderly. It's likely things you already know, but a gentle reminder doesn't hurt.

Should older drivers re-take their driving test?

There are many options being discussed for just how to ensure the safety of older drivers, including:

  • imposing restrictions on when people can drive
  • encouraging older drivers to go on a refresher course
  • making it compulsory for all drivers above a certain age to re-take their test

However, you can argue that a compulsory test for drivers over 70 would be unfair – after all, there are plenty of so-called dangerous drivers in younger age groups too.

The current rules for older drivers

Under the current UK licensing system, drivers over 70 need to apply to renew their licence and complete a self-declaration of fitness to drive, although they don't have to complete a test.

They then have to re-apply for their licence every 3 years.

One criticism often levelled at the current system is that the UK driving licence is ‘all or nothing' so once granted, the holder is entitled to drive anywhere in Europe and the wider world – assuming they have an international driving licence.

This differs from the systems in the US and Australia where drivers are restricted as to where they can drive once they reach a certain age.

As an older driver, can I get help?

Although over 70s aren't required to retake a driving test, you may wish to look into a Driver Assessment. This could give you some driving tips and peace of mind that your driving remains up to scratch.

You'll find more information on RoSPA's Older Drivers website.

What can Churchill do for older drivers?

Head over to Churchill to get a car insurance quote.

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