Older drivers on the

march

Paddy Hopkirk, IAM Mature Driver Ambassador

THE Institute of Advanced Motorists say the majority of older drivers are in favour of tighter rules on checking the health and suitability of over-70s to drive - even if those checks could take them off the road themselves.

An IAM report found more than half of senior motorists demonstrate that they self-regulate to stay safe, by avoiding driving in challenging situations like busy traffic, after dark, in rush hour or bad weather.

The IAM worked with Dr Carol Hawley and her team at Warwick Medical School to survey more than 2,600 drivers and former drivers on their opinions, habits and motoring history, for the first major survey of its kind for two decades.

While mature drivers travel significantly fewer miles than other age groups, 84 per cent of them rated their driving ability as "good to excellent" and only 6 per cent had ever considered giving up driving.

Despite that, a high proportion of respondents were in favour of measures to increase their safety on the roads. Almost 60 per cent said drivers should retake the driving test every five years after age 70, 85 per cent said drivers should pass an eyesight test every five years once they have reached 70, and more than half said that drivers aged around 70 should be required to have a medical examination.

Nearly all of the respondents agreed that GPs should be required to inform patients if their medical condition may affect their fitness to drive and half agreed that a flexible licensing system should be introduced which could restrict types of roads and conditions for some older drivers.

The report by the IAM, which recently appointed rally driving legend Paddy Hopkirk, now aged 82, as its Mature Driver Ambassador, also found just how important driving is to this elderly group.

Some 82 per cent said driving was very or extremely important to them, a figure that increases for women. Independence and convenience were cited as the main reasons for wanting to continue driving.

The number of drivers over the age of 70 is set to double over the next 20 years and with more than one million licence holders over the age of 80, there is a pressing need for enlightened policies and practical actions to help them keep safe and competently mobile for as long as possible.

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, said: "Driving is about so much more than getting from A to B and nowhere is this more apparent than in this age group. It helps maintain self-esteem and freedom and is essential for combatting social isolation."

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