‘Strong case’ for mandatory eyesight tests for elderly drivers over road safety fears

Dr Hilary discusses the risks for older drivers

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A report from the Department for Transport into older driver collisions shows that this failure was a contributory factor in 42.6 percent of accidents involving drivers aged over 70. In comparison, failing to look properly before driving contributed to just 35.7 percent of accidents for all ages.

The RAC Foundation said the figures show there is a “strong case” for requiring drivers to have their eyes tested when they renew their licence.

Other causes are more prevalent when older drivers are behind the wheel during a crash.

These include failing to judge another road user’s speed or path, illness or disability, being dazzled by the sun and being nervous, uncertain or panicking.

Despite this, elderly drivers involved in crashes are less likely to have been careless, reckless or in a hurry.

They are also less likely to be driving too fast for the conditions, been speeding or impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Late last year, the Older Drivers Task Force said consideration should be given to introducing mandatory eyesight testing with an optometrist for elderly motorists.

It said this proposal could provide the drivers with an “MOT of eyesight” at the time of licence renewal for those over 70.

If this was implemented, it would require free eyesight tests for 60 and above and more detailed tests for those over 70.

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The report found that over the next 20 years, car driver deaths in the 70 to 79 age group are expected to rise by 40 percent.

This was met with mixed responses at the time, with many elderly drivers pointing to younger drivers, who are often seen as causing the most risk on the roads.

The report also suggested that assessments of driving skills should be offered to older drivers caught committing offences like accidentally running a red light.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “It seems that as a nation we are getting older and with age comes the challenge of preserving our mobility, independence and quality of life.

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“As our faculties decline, we owe it to ourselves and other road users to routinely assess our own competence to drive.

“We are not convinced of the need for mandatory re-testing, but there is a strong case for requiring all drivers to have their eyes tested, ideally linked to the renewal of photo ID driving licences.

“The worst thing a driver can do is ignore a medical condition that might impact their ability to drive.

“With the right treatment, many conditions are manageable and mean people can safely and legally keep their keys rather than being forced off the road.”

Separate DfT statistics show the number of people aged 70 and over who hold a full driving licence reached a record 5.8 million in February.

That is a 29 percent increase on the total of 4.5 million in March 2016.

The number of drivers involved in collisions decreases with age from the 30-35 years old category.

Drivers are not subjected to mandatory tests after obtaining their licence, no matter how old they become.

Licences must be renewed every three years once the holder reaches 70, compared with every 10 years up to that point.

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