‘People should plan to retire from driving’ – BBC News

  • By Jonathan Fagg & Emily Unia
  • BBC news


Jim Tassell “was cycling along the road on a nice summer day” when he was killed by a vision-impaired driver

The number of people contacting the DVLA concerned about a driver’s ability behind the wheel is increasing, a Freedom of Information request shows.

Experts say older people should plan their retirement from driving and relatives should have “tough conversations” with loved ones.

In 2022, 48,754 concerns about a person’s fitness to drive were submitted to the DVLA.

The government says motorists must ensure they are fit to drive.

‘Just say something’

If a driver cannot read the license plate within 65 feet (20 m), they must notify the Drivers and Vehicles Licensing Agency.

Mr Tassell’s daughter Emma Damen said: “He really didn’t look at my dad at all, and just bumped into him.”

Mrs Damen encouraged anyone concerned about a family member’s ability to drive to “please say so”.

“Because at the end of the day, if you don’t and they are behind the wheel of the car, look what happened in my case: my dad should still be here and he’s not around and there’s no reason to be,” she said.

Mrs Damen wants a free mandatory eye test “every time you renew your license”.

He added: “How does the decision to drive a car that could result in death, which is obviously your worst case scenario, be a choice?”

The BBC’s Freedom of Information Request found that, in 2022, 48,754 notifications were sent to the DVLA relating to a concern about a person’s fitness to drive – up 82% from 26,716 in 2021.

During the first three months of 2023, the agency received 11,548.

These figures include self-declarations, made by medical officials and third party notifications.

‘Pretty rotten proxy’

Department of Transport (DfT) data shows an increase in accident rates for both young and old drivers.

Older drivers, defined as those aged 70 and over, account for 21% of car driver deaths by 2021. Younger drivers, aged 17-24 years, account for 16%.

Caroline Abrahams, director of the charity Age UK, said: “Our view, and research supports the notion, is that age is a pretty rotten proxy for ability to drive.

“As we age, our reaction times slow down. But we tend to compensate, because we have more experience.”

DVLA data shows that as of May 13, there were 6,023,173 people aged 70 and over who held full driving licenses in the UK.

In 2017, the number aged 90 and over topped 100,000 for the first time. As of May, the figure is 139,673.

Ms Abrahams said: “Most of us will get to a point where it’s actually time for us to close the locks. But assessing that is quite difficult.”

He said many parents “respect their bus ticket. But of course it helps if there is a bus to take”.

image source, Pat Colquhoun


Pat Colquhoun’s son was hit by an old man driving the wrong way in a double lane

But he said it was “probably a good idea” to introduce “a driving test or some sort of cognitive test or medical test”.

Prof Musselwhite said those planning to retire from driving could hang their keys more successfully.

“They sometimes have friends, family and neighbors to help them drive,” he said.

“But those who leave it too late risk feeling profoundly isolated, literally unable to fulfill their lives through the journey they once made.”

His mother Pat Colquhoun said: “He was 27 years old, a lifetime ahead of him, taken away by a stubborn old man who would not listen to his family.

“It seems crazy to me that a man with poor eyesight should be allowed to drive.”

‘Renew their license’

Rob Heard, chairman of the Older Drivers Forum, said those thinking about having a “difficult conversation” with a loved one should consider who is the best person to talk to them, when is the right time, and what steps can be taken together.

Becky Guy, road safety manager for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, added: “The first thing anyone should do if concerned about driving for medical reasons is see their GP immediately.”

He said a “simple assessment” could help drivers find areas they could improve, while driving mobility centers could “advise how people can continue to drive safely, perhaps with adaptations to their vehicles”.

A spokesperson for DfT said: “All drivers are already required to ensure they are medically fit to drive, and all car drivers over the age of 70 must renew their license every three years. We have no plans to change the requirements for older drivers.” .”

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