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Is the driving licensing system keeping pace with our ageing population?

Statistics show that five million motorists in the UK are over the age of 70. At the moment the law requires drivers over the age of 70 to renew their license every three years. The DVLA relies on drivers to declare any medical conditions that might affect their ability to drive safely. GPs are also legally obliged to inform the DVLA when they believe a patient is no longer fit to drive (see our guidance on public interest and confidentiality)

In the wake of several fatal accidents caused by elderly drivers, campaigners have called for changes in the law and suggestions include mandatory retesting for drivers over the age of 70, regular basic testing (such as for eyesight, hearing and reactions), mechanisms for reporting dementia, and even a ban on driving for anyone over 70.

However, as an ITV documentary (100 year old drivers: Rebooted) explores this month, driving can help older motorists to maintain their independence and contribute to their overall wellbeing. The DVLA also maintains that there is no evidence that elderly drivers are more likely to cause accidents.

What do you think? Are enough systems in place to ensure that elderly drivers are fit to be on the roads? Is it fair that the onus is on elderly drivers, their families and their doctors to recognise when they are no longer safe to drive, or should more be done by the DVLA?

GPs, do you often have to report elderly drivers to the DVLA? If so, is the criteria clear and the reporting process straightforward?

Take part in our poll and comment below to share your thoughts.

6 replies

  • Revalidation for drivers - good suggestion but not just for older drivers. Vision changes in our forties.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Plainly, there should be a better system than the current one, especially as the baby boomer population bulge is now entering their (ahem, "our") retirement phase. Any system must be practical and economical though; sight testing would be a good place to start.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    There is clear guidance for defined illnesses but perhaps there is a growing need for functional ability to be assessed. Reaction times, musculoskeletal mobility, fatigue tolerance and other general performance related attributes probably need testing as drivers get older. This could be done in a proportionate, careful valid way. Perhaps a serious of medical tests, a driving test or a combination of the two?
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Reasonable (and reasonably priced) practical test - in combination with GP input - would be a good place to start. Eyesight test a priority.
  • A simple improvement would be to change the question on the DVLA form sent to elderly people when they renew their licences every 3 years. My incapable father, aged 90, answered "no" to the question "Do you have serious problems with your memory?" and his licence was renewed. My siblings and I had to inform the DVLA and his GP to get the licence revoked - he plainly has Alzheimer's but has never being diagnosed by anyone other than myself. To him "serious" means life-threatening.
    There should be questions such as "Do you have problems with your memory", "Do you have periods of confusion" etc. My father would have answered "yes" to these, without the insight that they might result in an investigation that would ultimately result in the licence being revoked. (Obviously not fail safe as the less honest incapable elderly would still not be stopped.)
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    As you point out GPs (along with other Doctors) already have a public interest legal duty to inform the DVLA if they feel a patient is no longer fit to drive. While there is a definite case for more stringent medical checks on older drivers, as well as those of any age with conditions which may impact on driving, the BMA needs to ensure that GPs do not become the default assessors of "fitness to drive".

    Anon