Prince Philip

By Adele Barry

Prince Philip’s recent prang has opened the debate on older drivers with many questioning whether the 97-year-old should still be driving.  

Driving licences are valid until a driver reaches 70, at this point they are required to renew the licence and continue to do so every three years.

Some physical and medical conditions need to be reported to the DVLA with drivers being urged to speak to their doctor about any concerns. Conditions such as eyesight problems, diabetes, heart disease and stoke are included. For the full list of eligible conditions click here.

To legally drive, road users must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres (approx. five car lengths) another consideration for elderly drivers.

However, despite the Duke’s recent incident, the question of whether older drivers are more dangerous than their younger counterparts continues.

Nick Lloyd, acting head of road safety for RoSPA, said: “In the wake of the incident, we have inevitably heard calls for mandatory testing of people of a certain age. This is a red herring – age is a completely arbitrary and unreliable measure for assessing someone’s ability to drive. Statistically, older drivers have fewer accidents than other age groups.

“If we were to restrict drivers based on any relationship between age and accident rates, we would need to take a fresh look at inexperienced, younger drivers aged 17 to 24. Although this younger age group accounts for just seven per cent of the driving population, they are involved in around 22 per cent of fatal or serious road traffic incidents.

"Experience developed over a lifetime of driving helps them anticipate and cope with hazardous situations. They often choose to use familiar routes and plan their journeys to make use of daylight and avoid congested rush hour traffic. The ability to drive gives people freedom to travel when and where they like. This is particularly valuable to people of all ages who live in rural areas where there is limited public transport. Driving enables visits to family and friends, inspirational tourist attractions and everyday shopping. Taking away someone’s ability to drive can have a major impact on their independence and should be very carefully considered because it could lead to an increase in the rising toll of loneliness and isolation that we are seeing amongst older people in our ageing society.

“However, a balance needs to be struck between encouraging independence and protecting all road users. RoSPA therefore encourages older drivers and their families to be aware of their driving ability and other health conditions that could have an impact, and either speak to their doctor if they are worried or take an assessment such as RoSPA’s experienced driver assessment, which will provide advice as to how to improve driving.”

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research added: “ The government’s own road safety priorities highlight the need to do more for mature drivers and on rural roads, as well as a focus on younger drivers, speeding and drink and drug driving to further improve road safety. We support these priorities and call for the government to put action behind their words.

“While every driver is different, we support the findings of the Older Driver Task Force that the age of licence renewal be raised to 75 but with evidence of an eye test also required. We would also like to see more encouragement for drivers of all ages to take voluntary driving reviews to help them make informed choices about their driving skills. The fact that the government has yet to respond to this report despite it being published over two years ago is a concern for all road users, young and old.”