The Older Drivers Task Force, supported by Ageas, the third largest motor insurer in the UK, and managed by the Road Safety Foundation, has today published Supporting Safe Driving into Old Age, a report setting out a national older driver strategy. 

Amongst 7 key recommendations to Government and other stakeholders, the Task Force, comprising leading road safety experts* has recommended that drivers over 75 renewing their licence should be required to provide proof of an eyesight test. In addition, the report suggests that the DVLA, insurers and others should encourage vision checks every two years, particularly from the age of 60. 

More than 25 experts and organisations in transport, health, policing, licensing, car manufacturing and insurance collaborated to produce the report, led by Chairman John Plowman. 

Andy Watson, CEO of Ageas UK, said: “As a leading insurer of older drivers, we’re keen to ensure the right measures are put in place for them to stay safe on our roads and would urge the Government to consider the recommendations in this report.  We know only too well the devastating effect of crashes and it is right to show a greater interest in preventing accidents among the over 75s. This does more than merely protect their safety: it also helps vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists of all ages whom we fear, based on our own claims data, are more likely to be seriously injured by an older driver. We welcome this report and in particular the recommended introduction of a mandatory eye sight test.”

The emphasis is for government and industry to work together to ensure older drivers can stay on the road and enjoy independent lives for as long as it is safe to do so. 

Analysing the latest international evidence, available technology and road safety schemes, the recommendations include:

1.    Raising the automatic requirement for drivers to notify the DVLA at age 70 of any medical condition affecting driving to 75 - if the requirement for an eye sight test is made compulsory
2.    Requiring the DVLA to get evidence of an eyesight test at licence renewal
3.    Asking a consumer body to prepare specific advice on modern car safety features that are of special significance for older drivers – and consider “silver” NCAP-style assessment
4.    Improving road design, signs and markings to meet the highest international standards specifically to aid older drivers but bringing benefits for all drivers
5.    Evaluating existing driving appraisal courses and improving information provided to older drivers, their families, and medical professionals
6.    Piloting new products which offer an alternative to driving for older people.
7.    Pooling insurer data and research into major claims involving older drivers to understand the detailed causes.

The full recommendations can be found in the executive summary of the Supporting Safe Driving into Old Age  

The Older Drivers Task Force was created to establish shared understanding across many disciplines. Split into three key working groups, it looked at the academic evidence base, the latest in vehicle, road and information technology and reviewed best practice examples of support and self-help schemes.

John Plowman, Chairman of the Older Drivers Task Force, said “Our aim is to help older people drive safely for longer by changing our culture. A key precondition is that older motorists should be medically fit to drive and seek advice when a limiting condition develops or gets worse, but age itself should not be a barrier to safe driving. We need to be open about offering advice and support and look at fresh ways of doing this. Encouraging voluntary, confidential driving appraisals so that they become the norm not a stigma and helping older drivers understand and use the latest safety-driven vehicle technology will make a big difference. 

“People are living longer, healthier, more active lives, and driving longer.  The number of drivers over 85 will double to 1 million by 2025, many without access to public transport. This influx of older drivers has important economic and social value but it also presents road safety risks if we don’t adapt. Getting to grips with these risks, without limiting the independence and freedoms of the elderly is an important policy challenge – one to be tackled by the appointment of a minister with responsibility for older drivers.”

Andrew Jones MP, Minister for Road Safety, said: “I welcome this wide ranging, well researched and comprehensive report. It calls for action from a number of sectors, including Government, and we will consider the recommendations carefully.”