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Older Persons Road Safety

The Law

It is a legal requirement to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) of any disability or medical condition that could affect your ability to drive safely. These include:

  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Stroke
  • Any heart condition
  • Loss of mobility in any limb

Top tip

Avoid distractions – Powers of concentration can decrease with age, so it's helpful to avoid distractions when driving.

Using a mobile phone while driving is illegal, and even using hands-free can distract attention away from the road ahead.

Driver Safety

New research from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) shows that, contrary to popular belief, older drivers are no more likely to cause a collision than anyone else.

However, drivers over 85 are four times more likely to contribute directly to a collision than be involved through no fault. This can occur by driving much slower than the posted speed limit, for example, which can trigger rash overtaking by increasingly impatient drivers following behind.

Older drivers are also two-and-a-half times more likely to be killed in a collision compared to drivers in their 40s due to increased frailty and other age-related factors which may affect driving ability.

Car Maintenance

Car Maintenance
You should have your car professionally serviced once a year and keep a regular eye on oil, coolant and brake fluid levels. Check tyre pressure each time you fill up with fuel and do not let the tyre tread drop to the 1.6mm limit as stopping power is reduced. Also regularly check that all lights are clean and working and change windscreen wipers at the first sign of smearing.

If you drive an older car it could be a good idea to upgrade to a newer model as features such as power steering, anti-lock braking, air bags and air conditioning can all help to make driving more pleasurable as well as safer.

Switching to an automatic car may not always be the best option as unfamiliarity can make it all too easy to hit the wrong pedal at the wrong time, so it might be best to stick to what you know.

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Health, medicines and mobility

Health, medicines and mobility
Certain prescribed or over-the-counter medicines can affect driving ability, including everyday remedies such as cold and flu treatments, painkillers and antihistamines.

The combined effect of taking more than one medication can also seriously affect driving. Always check with your pharmacist or GP to check that they are safe to take while driving. 

Tolerance levels gradually decrease as we get older so mixing even a minimal amount of alcohol with any kind of medication before driving can be a lethal combination.

Driving while impaired is against the law and subject to exactly the same legal penalties as those who drive under the influence of illegal drugs or over the alcohol limit.

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Winter drawing

Winter driving
You should try to avoid any driving in extreme weather conditions but if you do have to travel, then allow more time for your journey and make sure someone knows your planned route and expected time of arrival .

Plan your route with websites such as the Highways Agency in England, Transport Scotland or Traffic Wales to avoid minor roads that may not have been treated for ice and snow.

A satellite navigation system (SATNAV) can help you identify your exact location if you get stuck and keeping a fully charged mobile phone is ssential if you need to summon assistance.

Area weather reports are available at www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather

Download our handy checklist of things to keep in your car for winter driving

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In-car child safety

In-car child safety
If transporting children, it is vitally important that the car is equipped with the right child car seat for the weight, height and age of each child. Equally important is to ensure that each seat is the right one for the make and model of your car and that it is correctly fitted. Not all child car seats will fit all cars so it’s essential that you check first.

Visit www.goodeggsafety.com for further information on the popular Good Egg Guide to In-Car Child Safety.

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Choosing when to stop

Choosing when to stop
Although UK driving licences expire when we reach 70, this doesn’t necessarily reflect the end of our driving career. It simply means that we will need to renew our licence every three years.

There may come a time when you notice your reactions becoming slower or you might start to feel increasingly anxious when out on the road and it may be time to choose to stop driving.

Legally, you would need to stop driving if your eyesight deteriorated below the minimum legal requirement of being able to read a standard-sized number plate from the required distance.

With dementia – worsening memory and judgement may be such that it becomes dangerous to drive. Your GP can provide advice.

If you do decide to stop driving, the other sections of this website offer advice on alternative ways of getting around including cycling, walking and public transport.

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