Tuesday, 13 March 2012
How Old Is Too Old To Drive?
Research by Australia's Monash University's Accident Research Centre has found that older drivers go slower on the roads but apply their brakes more slowly than middle-aged and younger drivers.
How slow are they? Drivers over 70 take, on average, almost half a second longer to brake to avoid a pedestrian than middle-aged drivers.
Since 1974 UK motorists have been allowed to continue driving until they reach 70, after which they simply fill out a form every three years to declare they are fit to drive and are free of ailments such as epilepsy, diabetes and heart conditions.
Last year the European Commission announced the EU Directive on Driving Licences which has already been approved and gives member states the option of imposing tests every two years for motorists aged 60 plus and annually for those 76 and over. However the EC decided that 'the Directive does not set out any obligation for EU member states to have additional measures for elderly people'. That means it's an option, not a requirement.
Now the Westminster Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) has decided there are too many over 70s - six million if the statistics are to be believed - on the roads and what's needed is a 'national strategy for an ageing car-driver population'.
Statistics show that older drivers cause fewer accidents than their younger counterparts but maybe this is because they already 'self-regulate'. Department of Transport statistics show that 8% of the country's drivers are over 70, yet they are involved in only 4% of crashes resulting in injury. 15% of the country's drivers are in their teens or twenties and are involved in 34% of crashes where injuries occur.
But these statistics won't stop Westminster doing their best to prevent older people from driving. Now that the issue has arisen in the MSM, I foresee the cost of driving rising for me; be it a new test or some other way to glean money from my pension.
I admit I don't particularly like night driving these days but I never did. Causes of visual ageing are studied here and I've no doubt the research is fairly accurate. I don't see in the dark nearly as well as I did 10 years ago and therefore I avoid driving in the dark as much as possible. That doesn't mean to say I'm a bad driver. I adjust my speed to accommodate my declining vision and no longer nip along at 60mph in failing light.
Do we older driver need a course accreditation system or an information pack? Of course not. The majority of us drive safely. I do agree with David Williams, the chief executive of the Guild of Experienced Motorists though. He suggests, when drivers renew their photo ID form of licence every 10 years, there should be an added requirement for them to get a stamp on their application from an optician, confirming that their eyesight has been tested and is all right.
What about those who didn't opt for photo ID licences though? It won't be long before the system catches up with us and insists we buy a plastic licence with a photo of an old, digitally aged person on it. That's why I never applied for one.