There are some four million people in the UK aged 70 and over still driving. And, as changes to how we renew our driving licences come into force, those with older parents who are still driving are being urged to help protect their relatives against scams, and also make sure that they are still fit to drive safely.
“The fact that so much of the system is going online is opening up opportunities for unscrupulous operators to target older people,” says Deborah Stone, MD of specialist advice website www.myageingparent.com, which has just published an online guide to driving after 70.
“Renewing a driving licence in the UK is free for drivers aged 70 and over. Unfortunately, in recent years third party websites offering to handle driving licence renewals for a fee have sprung up – some even appear as Google ads at the top of the web search results.
“If you see an ad offering to renew a licence for someone over 70 for a fee, it is a scam.
“If your older parent or relative uses a computer, then do make sure they understand that the official DVLA pages are ONLY found on the www.gov.uk website. Alert them to the dangers of clicking on money-making third party sites that offer to handle licence renewals for you.”
Another scam to be aware of is via email. In this case, drivers may be asked to verify their driving licence details by clicking on a link.
“The DVLA does not do this,” says Deborah Stone, “and your older parent needs to know that they should ignore such requests. The only secure way of dealing directly with the DVLA is via the GOV.UK website.”
The website is also urging families to ensure that older driers in their family fully understand how the new system works in England, Scotland and Wales, and help those who may not be online.
“If your older parent is still driving, you might need to explain the key changes to them, so we’ve put together a summary to help on our website,” says Deborah Stone. The three key points are these:
1 No more paper counterparts
All the information on a driver, including endorsements and penalty points, are held by the DVLA electronically and can be checked online, by phone or post.
2 Pre-1998 paper licences are still valid
Around seven million drivers in Britain still hold a traditional paper driving licence issued before the photocard and paper counterpart system was introduced. Paper licences remain valid until they expire (when the driver reaches 70 years of age) and will then be replaced with a photocard licence.
3 Driving licences must be renewed for those aged 70+
Driving licences automatically expire once you reach the age of 70 and if you wish to continue to drive, then you must renew your licence – online or by post. From then on, you must continue to renew it every three years. There is no charge for this.
When should older people give up driving…?
But the most controversial issue around older drivers is when they should stop driving for reasons of safety. The RAC Foundation says there are more than four million motorists in Britain aged over 70 and this will continue to rise as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age. There are also nearly 200 motorists aged 100 or over still driving.
“For many older people, especially those living in rural areas where public transport is poor or non-existent, their car is a lifeline to the outside world,” says Deborah Stone, “and their principal means of remaining independent.
“Inevitably many people will resist giving up driving. That, of course has to be balanced against safety – their own and other people’s.
“There is plenty of evidence to suggest that because older drivers are more cautious they are actually safer on the roads than newly qualified ones. The danger, of course, is that some conditions that will slow their reactions can ‘creep up’ on them, and any accident, even minor, can prove far more serious for their health than for a younger, stronger person.”
Motorists must tell the DVLA if they develop certain medical conditions or risk paying a fine of up to £1,000. A full list of those conditions – and there are around 100 – can be found on the GOV.UK website. The DVLA may refer drivers to a doctor, and if the required standards of driving cannot be met, drivers may have to surrender their licences.
Doctors may also do sight and hearing tests. Information on driving eyesight rules are on the GOV.UK website. Sometimes driving ability has to be assessed and the DVLA will refer drivers to a Mobility Centre.
The RAC and Rica (a research charity that provides information for older and disabled consumers) have produced a very useful guide called Driving Safely For Life, specifically designed to help older motorists keep safe and drive for as long as possible.
“If your older parent is in good physical and mental health and is still able to drive safely,” concludes Deborah, “then age need not be a barrier to motoring. But it’s better to be safe now than sorry later, and our guide can help them achieve that.”
The full guide on driving after 70 can be found at:
Tony Watts OBE
Hartley Watts Communications