Older motorists need urgent review, says RAC

Article date: 30 June 2010

  • Report on Motoring reveals 84% of older drivers support refresher driving courses

The driving needs of older motorists must be reviewed to meet the demands and concerns of this growing category of road users, according to the 2010 RAC Report on Motoring1.  

With the number of older drivers set to more than double to over six million in the next 20 years2, the Report - now in its 22nd year as the voice of the motorist - reveals 84% of drivers aged 70 or over acknowledge the value in a refresher driving course, and 69% of all motorists support compulsory medical checks at age 70 and above.

A review of the requirements for older drivers has received the backing of driving legend Sir Stirling Moss OBE: “As an 80 year old driver, I can clearly relate to the topic of elderly motorists and I support the idea of tests for the older generation. So many things have changed since we first started driving: road layouts have been altered and the density of traffic has risen enormously, especially in the cities. 

“The statistics show that although as a group we are less likely to be involved in an accident, we are more likely to be the cause of an accident, whether we are caught up in it or not – a sign that our reaction times are not what they once used to be3. We do not need to give this generation a full driving test again, however, perhaps just a simple competence test every three to five years from the age of 70, to make sure we are still capable.”

Refresher driving course for older drivers
The report shows that 80% of over 70s have been driving over 30 years, with 45% driving 50 years or more, and 86% have had no additional driver training or assessment since passing their test.

  • 84% of over 70s thinks a refresher driving course would be beneficial.
  • Alongside a refresher course on everything in the standard driving test, the most popular things they would like to see the course cover are winter weather driving (53%), driving at night (45%), parking (44%), motorways and dual carriageways (43%), junctions (40%), and learning more about your car eg sat navs (33%).   
  • Cost could be an issue, as 38% wouldn’t be prepared to pay for a refresher course, and on average they would be prepared to pay £23 – significantly less than the cost of the driving test at £624.

Checks for older drivers
There is strong support from motorists to review the rules around older drivers on the roads5. This support drops significantly as motorists get older:

  • Only a third of all motorists believe the current system should remain unchanged, compared with 68% of drivers over 70. Under current rules motorists must get their driving licence renewed with a self-declaration of fitness to drive at the age of 70d.
  • 69% think there should be compulsory medical checks, and 61% of motorists think there should be compulsory driving evaluations at age 70.
  • This contrasts with the views of motorists over the age of 70, who are understandably not so keen on any checks that might restrict their independence and mobility. Only 34% are in favour of compulsory medical checks, and only 22% support compulsory driving evaluations.
  • Three quarters of over 70s motorists disagree with imposing a maximum age limit for driving – compared to half of all motorists.

Older motorist confidence
Motorists are concerned about older drivers around them, with some older drivers admitting to difficulties in certain driving conditions:

  • 70% of motorists are concerned about older drivers on the roads.
  • Whereas road junctions, roundabouts and toll roads do not trouble the over 70s motorist, a quarter of this age group admit to lacking confidence driving in wintry weather, and 14% aren’t confident driving in poor road conditions, such as roads with potholes. This equates to nearly 500,000 older drivers having difficulties on our roads today.

Older motorists and public transport
Although 32% are using public transport more, compared with 24% of all drivers, older motorists are still very reliant on their cars. 

  • Only two in five disagree that most people in cars could be using public transport and 83% say it would be very hard to adjust their lifestyle with no car.
  • Half would use their car less if public transport were better.

The RAC’s David Bizley says: “The Government must consider the impact on motoring of our ageing population as part of its wider strategy for dealing with the retirement of the baby boomers. Motorists of all ages clearly believe in the value of refresher courses to improve old skills and learn new ones. Reviewing this now will save considerable pain in the future and continue the journey towards safer roads for everyone.

“Older motorists have the challenge of personal mobility and independence and RAC would welcome Government initiatives to help them to continue to drive safely. We need to take an evidence-based approach as to what checks should happen and at what age. Older motorists are resistant to any compulsory checks understandably, but they are also much fitter and healthier now than ever before - 70 could well be the new 60 for motorists’ health. At the same time we need credible, well-resourced alternatives for those motorists who can no longer drive. Motorists don’t suddenly stop wanting to travel once they hand over their car keys.”

Other themes from the RAC 2010 Report on Motoring

  1. The biggest concern for motorists this year is the behaviour of other drivers: 97% are concerned about drunk or drugged drivers, 96% are concerned about mobile phone usage when driving, 95% are concerned about driving without tax or insurance. The second biggest concern is the cost of motoring.
  2. There has been a big increase in motorists admitting to breaking the law when it comes to mobile phone usage in their vehicles: 28% are using their mobile phone without a hands free kit, up from 8% last year, and 31% are texting when driving, up from 11% last year.
  3. The environment has slipped even further down motorists’ list of priorities, with 35% believing nothing they do will make a difference. Incentivising behaviour is effective, however, as following the car scrappage scheme the average age of cars has decreased to 5.5 years, a month younger than last year, and 74% say they would buy a more environmentally-friendly new car if the tax incentives were better.
  4. The impact of the recession is now reflected in the cars motorists are driving: the number of people driving a people carrier or 4x4 has dropped slightly to just one in 10 and the number of drivers of luxury or sports cars has almost halved to just one in 20. There is a growing interest in electric vehicles, with more education needed on cost and range before they can become a viable mainstream option. 
  5. Motorists are aggrieved with the state of roads where they live, with 37% of motorists saying that improving the quality and condition of roads should be the main priority for our new Government. Some 88% of motorists think their local roads are getting noticeably worse, and 86% of motorists are sceptical that enough of their motoring taxes are reinvested into local roads.


For further information, please contact:
Jenny Chapman, RAC Press Office
Telephone: 01603 689894
E-mail: jenny.a.chapman@aviva.co.uk

Annouchka Behrmann, Hill & Knowlton
Telephone: 020 7413 3044
E-mail: annouchka.behrmann@hillandknowlton.com

Dave Chambers, Hill & Knowlton
Telephone: 0207 413 3155
E-mail: david.chambers@hillandknowlton.com

Notes to editors:

1 In total, 1,150 British motorists were surveyed (ie those who hold a current driving licence and drive at least once a month).The survey was conducted in March 2010, with the questionnaire taking around 25 minutes to complete.

2 Institute of Advanced Motorists. 

3 According to IAM report, "Older Drivers: Safe or Unsafe?", 8% of drivers are over 70, yet they are involved in around 4% of injury crashes. In contrast, the 15% of drivers in their teens and twenties are involved in 34% of injury crashes. It concludes that drivers under 70 are no more likely to be the cause of a crash than other drivers. But once over 70, they are more likely to be at fault, especially in right-of-way incidents.

4 www.direct.gov.uk

5 Under current rules motorists must get their driving licence renewed with a self-declaration of fitness to drive at the age of 701. Depending on the information given in the self declaration, further information can be sought by the DVLA from the motorist’s GP or a medical assessment may be required. The licence must then be renewed at the latest every three years depending on what conditions the motorist suffers from.                                                                                      

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