It’s a debate that’s raged for years. Every now and then it rears its head in the mainstream media: should elderly drivers be made to take a re-test? According to surveys and research, a whopping 85% of Brits believe that older drivers should (Source: The International Longevity Centre).
However, can it really be that simple? Should government pass legislation stating that anyone over a certain age should have to take re-test? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
The case for a re-test
A few years ago Stirling Moss announced that he believed older drivers should be re-evaluated; effectively meaning that those over a certain age would need to take another driving test, to prove they are still fit to drive on the roads.
There have been a few instances where elderly drivers have caused accidents, sometimes unfortunately fatal. Whether it’s as a result of ill health or a loss in concentration, there can be little doubt that elderly drivers, when suffering from conditions which will affect their focus and reaction times, are at more risk of causing traffic accidents. However, doesn’t each case have to be judged on its own merits? It would be a huge generalisation to suggest that all drivers over the age of 50, 60 or 70 should be retested – after all, everyone is different.
This argument has since been reaffirmed by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS). They suggest that those elderly drivers who are caught speeding and break other traffic offences should be made to pass a special training course, to prove they are still safe behind the wheel. This will avoid any such ambiguity over who actually needs to retake their test. It also takes away the indignity of Joe Bloggs having to take a trip down to the DVLA on his 50th birthday to re-take his driving test.
The case for self-regulation
For most drivers, the act of self-regulation has been a common way to establish whether or not that you, yourself, are fit to be driving on the roads. For example, if you no longer feel comfortable driving on motorways, you would plan a route taking you along A and B roads instead. The same could be said of elderly people that dislike driving at night, in which case you would only drive your car during the day.
Self-regulation ultimately gives older drivers their independence to socialise and retains their freedom. Taking away their licences will not guarantee safer roads, as Dr. Craig Berry, the head of policy at the International Longevity Centre-UK suggests.
Another suggestion is for elderly drivers to have regular health checks with their GPs. Eye tests and flexibility tests from a health professional may go a long way to ensure that each individual is in fact safe to get behind the wheel. However, this has been met with fierce opposition in some quarters who suggest that it is not the decision of a GP to take away an elderly person’s freedom to drive. In addition, it will raise questions over who breaks the news to an older driver that they can no longer drive, the GP or a family member?
So should we put the brake on elderly drivers?
As you can see, the issue over re-tests for elderly drivers is certainly a sensitive one. Ultimately, the problem boils down to who has the right to tell an older driver that they can no longer drive. Do we have to wait until any sort of damage or traffic offence has occurred before making older drivers ‘retrain’? Or do we allow the government and the DVLA to say that when you’re 50, 60 or 70 that you have to take a re-test? Then of course there’s the issue of expense; and, as everyone knows, learning to drive isn’t cheap, especially not for those who are retired and living off basic state pensions.
It’s an on-going debate, and one that’s sure to continue. But what do you think? Do you believe elderly drivers should be re-tested and if so, at what age? Are you against any form of government intervention? Should re-testing only be required when there is medical cause for doing so?