Safe driving in old age - our guide

Safe driving in old age - our guide
Life expectancy has steadily increased over the past 50 years and as a result there are now more pensioners than children in the UK.

This increase is reflected on the UK’s roads, with the number of driving licences amongst older people also rising.

While being able to drive, and the freedom it brings, is particularly important for older people, it is also important to be aware of the effects ageing can have on the ability to drive safely.

Anyone concerned about their parents’ and an elderly friend’s ability to drive safely may be interested to know that there are services in place that encourage people to make considered decisions about their driving skills.

Even though the majority of motorists stop driving at the right time, up to a third may stop driving earlier than necessary, with a further 10 per cent continuing to drive with questionable levels of driving fitness.

Our guide, provided by RAC Car Insurance, offers valuable advice for people who are concerned about their elderly parents’ driving ability and how best to discuss the subject with them.

Should you talk to your elderly parents about their driving?

Talking to someone about their driving can be a difficult subject to tackle at the best of times. However, if you strongly believe someon is a danger to themselves and other road users, it is essential that you talk to them.

Before you do so, it is important to put yourself in their shoes, so you can begin to imagine how they might feel and respond to the idea of having to give up driving. It is also imperative to remember that many people see driving as an essential part of their independence, so broach the subject sensitively and tactfully.

Refresher driving lessons for elderly drivers

Many elderly drivers are likely to become quite defensive when faced with the subject of them stopping driving.

As a middle ground, rather than asking your to stop driving entirely, you could suggest that they take a refresher course.

These courses offer individuals a professional assessment of their driving and help them determine whether it is safe to continue driving or whether they need to stop.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) are both reputable organisations that provide objective driving assessments and courses.

These assessments can last approximately one hour, are conducted by an experienced assessor. Once the assessment is complete, they will receive a report reviewing their driving ability.

Alternative methods of transportation for seniors

If, following an assessment, your elderly parent decides it is no longer safe for them to drive, you could then help them look at alternative methods of transportation.

These alternatives could include:

Free older person’s bus pass

Depending on when they were born, and where they live, they may be able to apply for an older person’s bus pass and travel free on local buses in England.

Senior Railcard

Available to anyone aged 60 or over, the Senior Railcard enables users to make big savings on most rail fares in the UK.

The cards can be ordered online at the Senior Railcard website or at most staffed railway stations, where you will need to bring your birth certificate as proof of age.

London Freedom Pass 

If you are a London resident, the London Freedom Pass provides free or discounted travel across London transport networks, including trams, National Rail, the underground, river services and buses.

Regional concessions Similarly, different regions and local authorities may also have their own concessions that apply to local transport.

Contact your local council to find more about what they offer.

When to stop driving

There is no legal age at which anyone must stop driving, so ultimately it's the individual’s decision.

However, there are numerous health conditions outlined by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) which may mean a person is no longer safe to drive.

If your elderly parent insists that it is safe for them to continue driving, encourage them to think about their health and whether they are putting themselves and other road users at risk.

Drivers should consider stopping driving if:

  • Their reactions are noticeably slower than they used to be
  • They find traffic conditions increasingly stressful
  • Their eyesight isn’t above the legal limit
    • Individuals must be able to read a number plate 20 metres away, with both eyes open
    • Vision must be above than 6/12 (decimal 0.5) on the Snellen scale.
  • They have a medical condition that may affect their ability to drive safely – consult a GP for advice

Find further information here on car insurance or speak to one of our RAC advisers on 0330 159 1019 to get a quote.