Calls for driver re-tests to improve road safety

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Calls for driver re-tests to improve road safety

13th March 2012

As the UK’s ageing population continues to grow, safety campaigners are calling for motorists to undergo re-tests to ensure they are still able to drive safely.

Joanna Bailey, an expert road traffic collision lawyer, was speaking after research published this week highlighted the increasing numbers of elderly drivers on the roads.

“This is not about singling out elderly drivers,” said Joanna, a partner with Fentons Solicitors who also acts as a spokesperson for Brake the road safety charity. “Over the next ten years, we are likely to see a larger population of elderly people in this country. Older people need to be kept mobile and safe, and we simply want to ensure that anyone who is behind the wheel of a car is fit and healthy enough to control that vehicle and make whatever manoeuvres might be required.”

Joanna, who for many years has seen the tragic consequences of serious road collisions, said that the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety’s report showed that 60% of motorists aged 70 and above were still driving their cars in 2010, compared to just 15% in 1975.

“Statistically we know that younger drivers are more likely to speed and be involved in incidents after drinking and driving, but older drivers have more difficulty negotiating junctions and complex road layouts,” said Joanna.

“Nobody is saying that elderly drivers should not be allowed to drive their vehicles,we just believe that as the number of ageing motorists grows in line with the growing population, it seems prudent to ensure they are able to drive safely.”

Joanna said there was concern that once a motorist reaches the age of 70, there is no official testing carried out as part of the licensing process.

“Anyone who has a licence only needs to tick a box on a form to say that they are over 70 and they can continue driving,” she said. “But we think individuals should undergo a brief health check with their GP. As we age, our eyesight can deteriorate – and we might not realise just to what extent. Our reaction speeds can diminish, prescription medication can affect our ability to react to situations and this is something that we feel should be taken into account before motorists get behind the wheel.

“The report says – quite rightly in my opinion – that doctors are in the best position to advise on someone's physical and mental ability to drive, as opposed to just a tickbox on a form.”

Joanna said calls for all motorists to undergo a re-test every 10 years had the support of many safety campaigners.

“Of course, nobody wants to have to re-sit their driving test, but if we’re being honest most people will admit that they have picked up a few bad habits in their driving lifetimes,” said Joanna. “Couple that with the natural effects of ageing, and it becomes clear that safety is being put at risk at the expense of convenience.

“To draw an analogy, if you worked with a piece of heavy machinery, and your employer didn’t make sure you were fit to use the equipment or test your eyes every few years, we would all be appalled and unsurprised to hear about incidents. But this is something that can absolutely be changed.”

Joanna appeared on BBC Breakfast News on Monday 12 March to discuss this issue.

Read more at: BBC News