On 13th August ITV aired a documentary that looked at people aged 100 and over still driving in the UK. The documentary, 100 Year Old Drivers, looks at some of the older folk still on the road and how determined they are to stay there. They documentary asserts that there are around 200 people aged 100 and above still driving on our roads and it looks at how some of these drivers manage to maintain their independence as well as staying safe on the roads.
Road traffic accidents can occur with drivers of any age, but there have been regular concerns and suggestions about the competency of drivers as they age. This is a particular concern as from the day you pass your driving test, which could be as early as 17, you may never be tested again in your life time. When you reach the age of 70 you are required by law to renew your licence through the signing of a self-declaration document. In this document you assert that you’re fit to drive but it doesn’t come with a formal medical assessment or any requirement to declare any fitness levels or medical conditions. This self-declaration has to be filled in every three years from then on.
Driving Difficulties come with Age
There are many things that deteriorate with age and this includes certain things which can have an impact on driving abilities. Deterioration of course doesn’t mean that people become unable to drive safely but perhaps assessments should be made on an individual basis, by a professional rather than self-declaration.
The key things which can affect your driving ability as you age are your eyesight and reaction time. The deterioration of eyesight is a common side effect of ageing and with issues such as cataracts common amongst older people, there are instances of people not seeing hazards in the road which are clear to those with better vision. Suggestions that opticians should play a role in the assessment of older drivers have been discussed as a clean bill of health and the right spectacles, accompanied by a positive report from an optician could ensure only those with eyesight fit for the roads are driving.
Naturally our reaction times tend to slow down as we age. Our reactions times are a natural reflex and are required to ensure we stop in time when we see hazards, reach a traffic light or junction. Medical conditions which develop with age may also require medication which slows reactions and this is a further thing which should be considered when assessing someone’s ability to drive safely.
Older Driving around the World
In other countries there are different regulations when it comes to older drivers. In Finland drivers have undergo a medical review every 5 years after the age of 45 to have their licence renewed and once they reach 70 renewal is dependent on the report of a doctor. In an almost opposite case, Sweden has no need for renewal at any time and the disparity between countries makes it hard to see which the right system is.
In the UK many older drivers are more than competent but there have been several news stories where an older driver has unfortunately been responsible for a fatal accident and this is something which further testing and medical assessment could see this number fall.
Research carried out by the RAC also found the current self-assessment system is inadequate and that a more in depth testing system should be put in place, testing a range of abilities including vision and hazard perception.
Many older people are dependent upon their cars to get around independently and this isn’t something we should seek to stop but there does need to be a more comprehensive system for testing their safety on the roads.