Getting old isn’t easy, and it can throw up a lot of difficult situations and uncomfortable conversations as those things you used to be able to do without hesitation begin to become much bigger and more worrying tasks. One of the biggest of these is driving. Dangerous at the best of times, being on the road can get worse as time goes on, but giving up will mean you lose that major point of independence that you’ve enjoyed since your late teens. Here’s a few tips to try and keep yourself safe and to age gracefully behind the wheel.
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What is the average age people stop driving?
It’s difficult to get an accurate measure of when people stop driving, as there could, of course, be a whole host of reasons why this happens, not necessarily linked to their actual abilities behind the wheel. A survey of older drivers, carried out by the IAM RoadSmart charity, showed that, on average, most drivers think they will drive until they turn 82. When broken down further, those under 70 think they’ll drive until they’re 79.8 and for those aged 70 or over this number jumped up to 84.7.
The most common reason for wanting to stay behind the wheel is to keep their independence and convenience, while the most common cause for giving up is expected to be health reasons, or because a health professional told them to – which leads nicely to GPs and Opticians being the most influential people when it comes to advising people to give up driving.
When should seniors stop driving?
There is no legal limit on when people can drive until, and how long someone continues to drive is very much on a case-by-case basis. For example, a 70-year-old could be advised to stop driving on medical grounds, while an 84-year-old could still be fit and healthy and able to drive without any major issues.
Some warning signs to keep an eye out for that suggest it’s almost time to hang up your driving gloves (other than owning driving gloves) include any deterioration in your eyesight that make it difficult to read a number plate from 20 metres away (the legal minimum which is tested at your driving test), any noticeable change in your reaction speed, driving has become stressful or even scary and, finally, any medical conditions that affect your abilities behind the wheel, such as dementia, Parkinson’s or diabetes treated with insulin. If the latter is the case, then you’ll need to inform the DVLA or you could face a £1,000 fine for withholding that information.
Do seniors need to retake their driving test?
By law, everyone over the age of 70 is required to renew their driving licence every three years, but this does not require a retest. However, a recent YouGov survey showed that a whopping 69% of drivers believe that this should be brought forward to the age of 60, and should include a retaking of their driving test.
Renewing a licence once you reach 70 is free, but you must declare any medical conditions and that your eyesight is at the minimum standard for being on the road.
Tips for older drivers
If you are advancing in your years but still aiming to stick behind the wheel for the foreseeable future, then we’ve put together a few hints and tips to try and keep you going in the safest and most stress-free ways.
- Regular Eyesight and Hearing Tests – Your eyes and ears are the single most important pieces of equipment when sitting behind the wheel of a car. Regularly ensuring that these are up to standard will make sure that you are aware of everything around you while driving.
- Try to Drive in Favourable Conditions – This may not always be possible, but as you get older, your eyes, no matter how often you get them checked, will age and lose some of their ability. Driving at night or in heavy rain could be quite tricky as a result, so trying to stick to driving in the dry and in sunny conditions will give you the best view of the road possible.
- Avoid Fast, Busy Roads – If you’re starting to get nervous when behind the wheel, then it’s best to steer clear of dual carriageways and motorways if you can avoid them. While going above the speed limit is dangerous, going far below it is just as risky. If you’re only happy to go at somewhere between 40 or 50 mph, then being surrounded by cars doing 70 is not going to be a pleasant experience.
- Avoid Distractions – This isn’t unique to older drivers, and you should always make sure that your focus is solely on the road ahead and not pulled away by loud music, eating food or readjusting your seat and mirrors whilst in motion. If you have a mobile phone, put it away or turn it off, as using one behind the wheel is not only dangerous, but is a crime and could land you a hefty fine.
- Give Yourself Space – If you know your reactions aren’t what they used to be, then leave more space around you than you might have done 20-30 years ago. This means if there is a need to change lanes or brake suddenly, you have less chance of causing an accident.
- Take a Driving Course – Refreshing your skills and knowledge is nothing to be ashamed of, and taking a driving course will allow you to have a professional assess your abilities when in the driving seat.
- Talk About It – Talk to those around you, either medical professionals or simply friends and family. If you’re getting nervous or if they’re noticing a dip in your abilities, then talking with them can help make the transition from driver to passenger that little bit easier. Losing your independence is always going to be a bitter pill to swallow, but it could save a life if you do so.
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