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Calls for elderly driver health checks

A road safety charity is asking the government to introduce a ‘national strategy’ of driving health checks for elderly drivers.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said the government “must act now” to introduce better information for elderly drivers and their families and a ‘national strategy’ of driving health checks. The move is designed to help those concerned about older relations who may be unfit to drive.

A poll of 1,297 people published by the road safety charity found 42 per cent of participants were ‘worried about an older driver’, yet 58 per cent avoided discussing the issue with said person. 47 per cent of those that did raise their concerns found their relative ‘reacted negatively’.

34 per cent of respondents in the East Midlands admitted they were worried about an older relative driving, the lowest per cent in the UK. The East and Wales came out on top with 51 per cent as the places most likely to have a concern.

“Talking to an elderly relative about their driving is a difficult conversation to have. Driving is associated with independence, so giving up the car keys can be a very stressful process,” IAM chief executive Simon Best commented. “This is especially true for drivers with dementia as they often underestimate the impact of the condition on their driving skills.”

IAM outlined a number of actions it believes would help the problem, including widespread availability of ‘voluntary on road driving assessments’, urging car manufacturers to design cars around an aging population, better information for those that need it and simpler road designs that make it easier for older drivers to keep on driving.

“Voluntary online and on road driving assessments will provide an unbiased view and help everyone make the right decision at the right time. We are finding while there are some elderly drivers who should not be on the road, most get it right and as many as 15 per cent give up too early,” Best said, commenting on an RAC Foundation statistic.

“But with ever increasing numbers of elderly drivers, this is a growing mobility and road safety issue that won’t go away.  The government needs to act now,” he added.

A website was setup in 2008 called Still Safe to Drive that details all of the health issues associated aging and the effect they can have on driving. By doing so it is hoped older drivers can realise they might not be as safe as they think on their own terms.

The UK is home to more than 4,018,900 motorists aged 70 and over, 190 of which are a century or older.

Such is the problem of aging motorists, the government recently announced a plan to relax the driving licence renewal age from 70 to 80 years old. The Department for Transport (DfT) said doing so would reduce the burden on the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which receives 1.6 million items of “medical mail” every year.

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