Over-70s should not be penalised for running red lights, experts say

Over-70s should not be penalised for running red lights, experts say
Older drivers should be spared prosecution if they run red lights, drive too slowly or go in the wrong motorway lane, a government-funded road safety report has recommended.

The Older Drivers Task Force says assessments of driving skills should be offered to all motorists aged 70 and above in the UK who are caught committing offences – instead of facing legal penalties.

Fitness to Drive evaluations are currently only run by a handful of police forces, such as Hampshire Constabulary. Drivers’ abilities are assessed by specially qualified occupational therapists and driving instructors.

If a driver is found unfit to get behind the wheel, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is notified, and considers whether or not to remove their licence. In some instances, drivers are referred for more lessons and offered a reassessment within three months.

Those offered an assessment as the first port of call for careless driving, or driving without due care and attention, would then avoid the usual £100 fine and three penalty points for this offence.

The report highlighted that rolling out Fitness to Drive assessments nationally would help to reduce deaths and serious injuries among older drivers. It said the government should aim to halve the number of car crash deaths in over-70s by 2030.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Allowing older drivers to remain mobile is critical to their mental and physical wellbeing, but so is safety.

“A system which helps people address their shortcomings rather than simply penalises them could help maintain this balance.”

Mr Gooding pointed out that most older drivers are very safe and self-regulate their driving, avoiding travelling at night or during rush hour, for example.

He added: “But any encouragement we can all be given to reassess our ability to drive safely should be welcomed, not just after an incident but throughout our driving lives.”

Other recommendations made by the Older Drivers Task Force include mandatory sight tests at licence renewals from the age of 70, a programme to make T junctions safer and research into the causes of pedal confusion.

The Task Force report states that older drivers do not pose a “significant risk” to other road users but their “relative frailty” means they are over-represented in serious crashes.

There are 5.7 million people in the UK aged 70 and over with a full driving licence, including 489 who are at least 100, latest Department for Transport (DfT) figures show.  

Annual car driver fatalities among the 70-79 age group are forecast to surge by 40% over the next 20 years due to the country’s ageing population.

The Task Force was led by the Road Safety Foundation (RSF) which published the report. Dr Suzy Charman, its executive director said: “We want to increase the pace of progress to ensure that we do not see the expected rise in the number of older drivers killed or seriously injured in road crashes.

“Key recommendations such as introducing mandatory eye tests at licence renewal at age 70 are considered essential and lifesaving.

“We hope the Department for Transport welcomes the report and can provide the leadership necessary to ensure these recommendations are taken forward.

“Not only will this make driving safer for older drivers, but it will also provide a legacy of safer roads for generations to come.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Safety remains our top priority and we will continue to ensure we strike the right balance between keeping the roads safe and maintaining people’s personal mobility into old age.

“We keep all measures under review and will consider the wider outcomes of this report.”

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