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Should older drivers be made to retake their driving test?

Following the recent crash involving the Duke of Edinburgh at the age of 97 earlier this year, the question as to whether older drivers’ should be made to retake their driving test has become a topic of interest. The ageing population of the UK as a whole has resulted in a greater number of road traffic exceeding 70 years old for the first time ever. Nevertheless, despite the mass of older drivers still behind the wheel, there is in fact no startling statistic to suggest that they are more or less likely to cause a collision or to be involved in a road traffic accident.

What is the current law?

Throughout the UK, there is no law that requires older drivers to retake their driving test. However, they must renew their driving licence once they reach the age of 70, and subsequently every three years after that. Failure to adhere to this rule will result in a driver being unqualified to drive regardless whether they are more than capable of being on the road or not. Furthermore, despite the fact there is no obligation to be retested, older drivers must ensure that they are fit and well enough to drive. This includes having satisfied the minimum conditions in terms of eyesight to be deemed as a safe road user. The rules relating to driving and elderly drivers mainly derive from EU guidelines. It is unclear how these rules may change following Brexit.  

How to determine if you are fit to drive?

As part of your driving licence renewal after the age of 70, the form is a self-assessment whereby you should answer truthfully on your current capabilities in terms of your health and well-being, in relation to being a road user. There are a number of medical conditions that may have an adverse effect on your driving ability, thus elderly road users are advised to seek medical advice if they think that this is the case. Moreover, an individual can take an independent assessment of their driving skills, either through your doctor or another healthcare professional to verify whether they are fit and well to drive or not.

Is the law likely to change anytime soon?

In 2017, Benjamin-Brooks Dutton launched a petition for older drivers to be compulsory retested every three years, following the death of his wife Desreen Brooks. Desreen was killed by an 82 year old driver in 2012. Despite the fact that he had managed to obtain more than a quarter of a million signatures, it failed to become public policy. Fast forward two years later, the Duke of Edinburgh, who was involved in a collision with another road user at the age of 97, decided to surrender his own licence. This followed national protest in respect of elderly drivers, and it brought the topic back to the forefront of British politics. In a recent poll undertaken by YouGov UK, 63% of MP’s were in favour of the motion that older drivers should be made to retake their driving test after a certain age - with 75 years old being the most favoured option. This would suggest that legislation to this effect may be introduced over the coming years, although there is nothing to suggest that this will happen quickly.

Conclusion

The question as to whether older drivers should be made to retake their driving test appears to be a topic of great interest to many. At this stage, it looks set to remain a personal ‘self-assessed’ choice to continue driving after the age of 70 instead of the proposed public policy of compulsory retesting. However, it is hoped that with greater information and resources available to older drivers then the stigma attached to the elderly and their driving capabilities will be reduced. With superior guidance, older drivers may be better informed to decide whether they are fit and well enough to drive without having to be forcefully retested.

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