Older drivers back extra testing under ‘flexible licence’ proposals

Warning of ‘two-tier’ system as study finds support for pilot scheme placing limits on some motorists

More than half of drivers over the age of 60 back retesting for older motorists, according to new research, with nearly half supporting the idea of “flexible” licences.

A study by IAM Roadsmart found support for regular compulsory retests for the over-70s as well as backing for proposals that would place limits on where and when some older drivers can use their cars.

However, some involved in driver training have warned that such an approach could create a “two-tier” system that would restrict some people’s ability to get around.

According to the poll of more than 3,000 older motorists by IAM Roadsmart, 55% of over-60s agreed that there should be a compulsory retest every five years for drivers aged 70 and above.

Currently, drivers have to renew their licence at the age of 70 via a self declaration but don’t have to sit any driving or medical assessment.

IAM’s director of policy, Neil Greig, said: “Far be it from being driven off the road, our research shows that many older motorists are confident in their driving and happy for their health and driving skills to be periodically tested to determine that they are still up to scratch.”

The survey also found that 46% of drivers supported the idea of flexible driving licences, which would allow motorists to continue driving but with restrictions which could limit them to certain areas, types of road or times of day.

Mr Greig commented: “Flexible licences are already used in some countries, including the USA and Australia. In these places, following an official assessment, older drivers can continue behind the wheel, but in a restricted area, type of road, or time of day.

“IAM RoadSmart supports a flexible driving licence pilot project in the UK to test whether this approach would allow some older drivers to maintain their mobility and still reach local services. This would maintain their quality of life as well as reduce the cost to society of bringing services to them.”

However, Ian McIntosh, CEO of Red Driving School, said he was “disappointed” at IAM Roadsmart’s suggestion of introducing flexible licences.

He told National World: “If implemented, these plans would create a two-tiered system for older and less mobile drivers, and potentially restrict people’s movement.

“We know a driving licence is a great source of independence, particularly for those over the age of 70, and rather than disenfranchising older people with graduate driving licences, we should be encouraging voluntary assessments.

“Refresher classes should be the norm for all drivers. At Red we want people to encourage their relatives and friends to undergo these voluntary refresher courses so that roads remain as safe as possible.”

Mr Greig also suggested that older drivers should be more willing to take a temporary break from driving if they have any health concerns.

The DVLA can withdraw a driver’s licence based on a medical assessment but there are currently huge delays in processing these assessments, which has led to fears that unsafe drivers may still be on the road.

Mr Greig concluded: “With the extended backlog of patients waiting to see a GP, we would encourage older drivers to independently monitor behaviours or health patterns that may impact their driving habits and general health more than usual.

“In cases where there is any doubt, older motorists should temporarily put the brakes on getting in the driver’s seat.”