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The issues of ageing motorists

We hear often about how we have an ageing population in this country. This can have a profound effect on the way the country is run but it increasingly impacts us on a personal level. Advising an elderly relative that it is time to think about stopping driving is one of the difficult tasks many of us face.

We hear often about how we have an ageing population in this country. This can have a profound effect on the way the country is run but it increasingly impacts us on a personal level. Advising an elderly relative that it is time to think about stopping driving is one of the difficult tasks many of us face. Now motoring organisation GEM Motoring Assist has launched a new set of online resources to help relatives and older drivers identify the risks and decide when it is time to give up the driving licence.

The package is being launched by Valerie Singleton and includes videos and other online resources to help overcome the trauma involved in discussing the issue with elderly relatives. The information explains the physical changes that take place with ageing, identifies the risks associated with driving and highlights the dangers that can be caused. The campaign is called 'Still Safe to Drive' and has interviews with drivers who have been through the process of giving up their licence due to their advanced years. 

A GEM spokesman said: "As we grow older, it's perfectly normal for our driving habits and skills to change. The important thing is to recognise these changes, especially the ones that may compromise safety, so that we can ensure we also take steps to reduce any risks. Even if we need to reduce our driving or we need to leave it to others, it doesn't have to mean an end to an independent, active life."

The issue is only likely to get bigger. The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) says that the number of male drivers over 70 will double in the next 20 years, while the figure for female drivers will treble. UK driving licences actually expire when the driver reaches 70 but they can simply apply for a new one. There is no medical examination to take and the driver is not required to retake the test.

Aside from medical issues, Transport Research Laboratory chief scientist, Professor Andrew Parkes, has identified two areas that indicate it might be time to give up driving. He explains: "One is how they themselves feel in the traffic environment; are they starting to feel more stressed or confused or irritated by actions of other drivers? The other is how they feel about the reactions of passengers in their vehicle. They will know whether their passengers are feeling comfortable, whether they are criticising their driving. It all starts to build a picture which will give early warning signs that something needs to be looked at in more detail."

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