What the figures say
Devon and Cornwall’s resident older driver involvement rate of 173.3 per 100,000 population is 7% lower than the overall GB rate (185.7), but 1% higher than the South West region rate of 171.8. Exeter has the lowest rate (127.0), compared to Eastern Cornwall with the highest rate of 204.9.
Risk is higher among moderately affluent seniors, such as those in bungalow estates designed for older owners, and those living in Eastern Cornwall.
RoSPA says that although experienced drivers are, in general, safer than those with less experience, as we get older, our health and fitness, often including our eyesight, physical condition and reaction times, begins to decline.
Age related conditions can also begin to affect our driving. Of course, this is different for each person; there isn’t an age at which we automatically become unsafe to drive.
Many drivers recognise that their driving ability is changing and so change when and where they drive (this is often called ‘self-regulation’).
However, there comes a time when each of us need to reduce our driving, or even stop altogether. Taking advice from your doctor, or another health professional, and from family or friends can be very helpful.
Driving allows freedom and independence but as we get older both cognitive and physical abilities may change, and this can impact on our driving. Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to stop driving, sometimes we just need to make changes and adapt to allow us to continue driving safely.
Should I be concerned?
Many drivers will know when things change and are impacting on their driving, for example not feeling so confident when driving during the hours of darkness; this may lead to some people reducing the time they drive at night or not driving at all when it is dark.
However, some people may not notice changes in their driving ability, sometimes it may be others that notice, for example a member of the family. This may be because they have been driving for so long that they are in the habit of driving in a particular way and therefore overlook some easy changes that can keep them and other road users safe.
Ultimately, older drivers need to think of their own safety, the safety of their passengers and also other road users.
What can I do?
There is an abundance of advice and help that is available and links to this is given below. If you have any further questions, we will support you where we can – just ask! Contact Vision Zero South West!
When does my driving licence expire?
Most UK car driving licences are valid until your 70th birthday, when you must apply for a new three-year licence by completing a declaration that you are still fit to drive.
How do I know what medical conditions I need to declare to DVLA and if I do, will I lose my licence?
There are a number of medical conditions which you have to declare to the DVLA. Check with your GP who can assess your fitness to drive.
Notification will not automatically lead to your licence being revoked. You can be fined up to £1,000 if you do not tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving.
I am worried/some of my family are worried about my ability to drive safely. What should I do?
Book on an assessment with Cornwall mobility / have a chat with your GP/health professional too.
There are also several simple things we can do to help us continue to drive, safely, for as long as possible, such as taking regular driving assessments and refresher training.
A view simple steps could increase your enjoyment of driving, increase confidence and keep you and other road users safe. The following link provides a useful check list to help consider whether your driving is changing Older Driver Self Assessment Checklist
The following list also provides some simple help and advice:
Eyesight test: It’s important that eyesight is tested at least once a year so you know you are fitted with the correct glasses or contact lenses are worn for driving. The test can also identify whether you have cataracts or glaucoma which can greatly reduce vision, particularly when driving at night.
More information here: What happens in a DVLA eye test | Specsavers UK.
Hearing test: Any sensory loss can lead to a feeling of disorientation or disconnections from what is happening around you so it’s important to make sure that regularly have a hearing check.
Driving at night: Wear an-to-date pair of distance glasses or contact lenses recommended by your Optician. Never use tinted lenses such as red or amber as they can filter out traffic lights, brake lights and indicators of cars in front.
More information here: https://www.olderdrivers.org.uk/the-law/eyesight/
Avoid distractions: Concentration can decrease with age, so it’s helpful to avoid unnecessary distractions.
Plan your route: Planning your route before leaving to feel more confident and avoid getting lost. You may want to consider using a (SATNAV) as it can help take the stress out of a longer journey.
Know your limitations: If you are noticing changes in your driving then it is s best to seek advice from a GP or health professional It is important not to ignore changes as it is not only your own safety you should be thinking about but also your passengers and the danger that you might pose to other road users.
Keep physically active: Ageing also tends to result in a reduction of strength, co-ordination and flexibility and so it can make it more difficult for example to look over your shoulder. Daily physical activity like walking, cycling or swimming help keep joints supple, improve strength and flexibility and also help mental health.
Drive defensively: Reflexes can slow down as you get older, so it can be helpful to allow a little more time and space to react to any unexpected situation.