Almost two thirds of motorists think that drivers over the age of 70 should have to resit their driving test in order to continue driving, according to a new study.
The poll of motorists found that an average of 60% of drivers agreed that some form of retest should be introduced for older drivers but revealed predictable differences between age groups.
According to the survey of more than 2,000 motorists by car buying service Choose My Car, younger drivers were most supportive of the suggestion, with 75% of those aged 18 to 34 in favour of retests for the over-70s.
In contrast, 42% of over-55s thought the measure was a good idea.
The proportion of drivers over the age of 70 has doubled in the last 25 years, with more than 4.5 million licence holders in the 70+ age bracket and more than 100,000 aged 90 or older.
Although drivers have to apply to renew their licence at 70 there is no formal test of their driving skill and they can self declare that they are still fit to drive. Previous calls to change the rules around licensing have also suggested mandatory medical and eye checks could be introduced to ensure older motorists are physically fit to drive.
Nick Zapolski, founder of ChooseMyCar.com, said the findings showed strong support across all age groups for the idea of retests.
He commented: “Most drivers are of course perfectly capable of driving at 70 and well beyond.
“Being able to drive and having access to a car is something many of us aspire to but it’s also very important to make sure that our roads are as safe as possible, and the results of our research suggest that the overwhelming majority of people – especially in the younger age bracket – believe that more must be done to check older drivers are still competent.”
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at road safety charity IAM Roadsmart dismissed the idea of retesting at the age of 70 and warned that it could discourage drivers from reapplying even when they were perfectly capable of continuing to drive.
He said: “Collision statistics show clearly that 70-year old drivers are no less safe than those in their 50s and 60s, so there is no road safety case for compulsory retesting of drivers at 70.
“Compulsory retesting often leads to perfectly safe drivers giving up too early which leads to health decline and increases in the cost of providing services to them. As our recent study has shown the biggest issue is lack of preparation for giving up driving and we need to change the way we provide information and advice for older drivers before rushing into compulsory testing.”
Mr Greig did, however, suggest that reforms were needed to ensure older drivers are medically fit and supported the idea of driver “reviews”.
He added: “We are seeing a growing number of drivers in their late 80s and 90s and they are more at risk to themselves and others. This is why IAM RoadSmart supports a gradual change in the licencing regime with evaluation as things change.
“The first step could be raising the age of renewal to 75 but insisting on evidence of a vision test. If this works well we could see further changes in the years ahead. IAM RoadSmart also supports making mature driver reviews available on ‘prescription’ in the same way as gym session are made available to improve physical health. These voluntary review help families have difficult conversations and also give older drivers confidence that their experience and ability is still keeping them safe on the roads.”
Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driving School, supported the idea of voluntary assessments for older drivers to keep their skills sharp but warned that compulsory retests could force fit drivers off the road and lead to increased isolation for some.
He said: “A driving licence can be an invaluable source of independence and mobility, particularly for those over the age of 70. So rather than discouraging older people from holding a licence or implementing restrictions and mandatory retesting, we encourage voluntary assessments.”