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When is too old to be on the road?

An older male driver in a carAre older motorists dangerous? Should there be stricter upper age limits applied to driving licences? We take a closer look.

There are now more than 4 million drivers over the age of 70 in the UK, and almost 200 over the age of 100.

This is according to research carried out by motoring research charity the RAC Foundation .

When should older motorists give up driving?

The organisation says research from Australia and the United States suggests that around 10 per cent of older drivers continue motoring when they are not capable of doing so safely.

But the RAC adds that around a third of older drivers give up their cars unnecessarily early because they are worried they pose a risk to themselves and others.

Overall, however, older drivers may in fact be safer.

Older drivers may be safer

Department for Transport statistics show that drivers aged 75 and older make up 6 per cent of licence holders but account for 4.3 per cent of deaths and serious injuries as a result of car accidents.

Those aged between 16 and 20, however, represent 2.5 per cent of all motorists but 13 per cent of fatalities and serious injuries.

Under current rules, motorists must declare themselves fit to drive at age 70 and every three years after that.

There is no compulsory testing of older drivers, and no plans to introduce it – despite the fact that many people think that re-testing is necessary at certain ages.

Driving: Is re-testing necessary?

Professor Stephen Glaister is director of the RAC Foundation.

Older driver holding a licenceHe says: "The RAC Foundation does not support compulsory retesting at a set age because this presumes that on reaching a particular birthday people’s physical and mental capacities change radically."

But Glaister is worried about the number of older drivers who stay off the roads without good reason.

He adds: "All drivers should regularly consider their fitness to drive, but matters come to a head when we reach 70 and have to declare that we should be on the roads.

"In general, older drivers have an enviable safety record but it is clear that faced with this critical yes or no decision, many motorists simply do not have a realistic view of their capabilities."

Driving vital for 'independence'

The RAC Foundation says that it is vital for people's independence that they can stay on the road as long as possible.

It has teamed up with consumer charity Rica to put together a guide for older drivers to help them work out whether they are still fit to use a car.

The guide also explains to older motorists what changes can be made to their vehicles and their driving styles to help them stay behind the wheel for longer.

For example, local mobility centres may offer assessments of how people drive as well as their eyesight and physical capabilities.

The guide also points out that some older drivers may wish to consider avoiding using their car at night or when visibility is poor.

Age limits on car insurance

Age limits on car insurance are another issue for older drivers.

Many providers will not cover drivers once they have passed a certain age: last year, analyst Defaqto found that someone aged 86 would be ineligible for three-quarters of polices as a result.

And older drivers may also face higher premiums.

Charity Age UK wants insurers to take into account the fact that older motorists tend to be more responsible.

'End age discrimination'

Age UK spokesman Gordon Morris says: "We would like to see the insurance industry taking this on board and base insurance premiums on ability and not on the false assumption that age equals poorer driving.

"There should be no upper age limit on getting car insurance.

"The industry needs to acknowledge the fact that older drivers use their cars regularly, and responsibly, and should not be forced into giving up driving.

"Many older drivers are drawing on years of experience behind the wheel and are reliant on their vehicles to maintain their independence."

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris

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