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Helping older drivers stay safe on our roads

Age can affect driving skills, making safety even more important.

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  • Know the law

  • Health matters

  • Training

  • Plan ahead

Driving safely matters, whatever age you are

Driving takes a lot of skill and concentration. With age, things like poor eyesight and health issues can lead to slower reaction times. This means there’s more risk involved with every journey.

If you’re an older driver you need to weigh up the risks and make sure you’ve got what it takes to be in charge of a vehicle.

What you need to know

  • You need to renew your licence at 70
  • Health conditions can have an impact on driving
  • There are ways to help make driving easier
  • Further training can make a difference
  • Car maintenance is important
  • Good journey planning always helps

The law and older drivers

As you get older, driving can become more difficult. It’s important to remember that legally, you always need to be fit to drive.

Driving licence expiry

Your driving licence expires when you turn 70. So, if you want to keep driving, you’ll need to renew it (and then keep doing so every three years).
Here’s how renewing your driving licence works:

  • The DVLA will give you the chance to renew as you approach your 70th birthday

  • It’s free and you can either do it by post, or online by using a unique ID code

  • You’ll need to complete a medical declaration of your fitness to drive

How’s your eyesight?

With age, your eyesight naturally deteriorates. This can be an issue, especially when driving at night or in changeable light conditions.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You must be able to read a number plate at a distance of 20 metres away – roughly five car lengths
  • If you need to wear glasses, then do so whilst driving, otherwise it’s an offence (which could invalidate your insurance in an accident)
  • Get a regular eye test to be sure you can continue to drive safely
  • If you’re stopped for a check and you fail an eye test, your licence can be revoked that same day
  • If you develop an eyesight condition, it may have to be reported to the DVLA
  • Check if your eyesight condition needs to be reported

Think about any medical issues

Conditions like diabetes, strokes and arthritis can all impact on your driving ability. In terms of being allowed to drive, or letting the DVLA know, you should always take advice from the medical practitioner dealing with your condition.

Medication can affect driving too

Some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines can also have an impact on your driving but it’s often difficult to predict when and how they’ll affect you. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Always read the labels, or ask your doctor / pharmacist for advice
  • It’s illegal to drive if you’re unfit to do so because of medication you’re taking
  • It’s also illegal to drive with certain medicines in your blood, above specified limits
  • Drinking alcohol with some medicines makes their effect on your driving even worse

Staying on the road

Driving is great for getting out and about and seeing friends and family. The best way to carry on driving for as long as possible is to keep your skills and knowledge up to date.

Here are some tips:

  • Make sure you have the latest Highway Code so your knowledge is current
  • Take an assessment for advice on how your driving might’ve changed
  • This assessment can give you more confidence and make driving less stressful
  • An assessment could be a simple refresher course through the likes of RoSPA or IAM
  • Or, you can get a more detailed medical based assessment from a Driving Mobility Centre

Important new rules

  • There’s now a new hierarchy of road users
  • Those who can do the most harm have the greatest responsibility
  • Drivers and riders have to give way to pedestrians crossing a road
  • Pedestrians and cyclists have priority when turning in and out of junctions
  • Drivers and riders need to give plenty of space when passing others. At least:
    • 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at up to 30mph
    • 2 metres and under 10mph for horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles
    • 2 metres and a low speed when passing pedestrians walking on a road
  • Cyclists can ride in the centre of the lane, or two side-by-side for their own safety
  • In a vehicle, the door should be opened with the hand furthest from the door, helping to make drivers look over their shoulder to see cyclists or pedestrians nearby

Try some advanced training

Advanced driving courses can improve your skills and vehicle control, and also help you deal better with hazards.

Make your life easier

If you’re thinking of changing your car, there are a few things that can make driving easier:

  • Change to an automatic
  • Use technology like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) to detect an accident and automatically brake, or Blind Spot Assistance, which warns you if someone’s in your blind spot
  • Make use of reversing aids, like cameras or parking sensors
  • Check for ISOFIX mountings – these are handy for child seats

Looking after your car

It’s important to regularly check your vehicle and make sure it’s roadworthy. Here are some basic checks that you should do:

Daily checks

Have a quick look for any damage or punctures that might’ve happened while the car’s been parked up. Look underneath in case any fluids have leaked.

Weekly checks

Looking under the bonnet, you’ll see a number of different coloured caps.

These are things that need routine checking, like engine oil, brake and power steering fluid, coolant and windscreen washer fluid.

Always check your manufacturer’s handbook for recommended replacement fluids.

Tyres

  • Check your tyres are at the right pressure and there aren’t any cuts or bulges
  • The right tyre pressures for your car’s make and model will be in your handbook and on tyre pressure charts at petrol stations
  • Always check tyre pressures when they’re cold
  • Tyre tread depth needs to be at least 1.6mm for cars and light vans
  • This can be checked with a tread depth gauge, or you can use the wear bars on the tyre tread to see how much is left

Oil

  • Check the engine oil level when the engine’s cold and the car’s parked on level ground
  • If the engine’s been running, wait 3-4 minutes before checking
  • The level shouldn’t be below the minimum level indicator
  • Be careful not to overfill, as this can cause problems for the oil seals and catalytic converters
  • Most cars have electronic indicators that show if you need to top up
  • Some cars’ warning lights come on if the oil is overfilled too
  • If you’re in any doubt, speak to a mechanic / garage or check your manufacturer’s handbook

Radiator coolant

  • Most cars have a sealed system and another small tank for checking and topping up coolant
  • Make sure the coolant level is between the min/max lines
  • Only check when the car is cold: when it’s hot there’s a high risk of scalding yourself
  • Most cars have additives for running all year, but an older car might need extra antifreeze in winter

Windscreen washers and wipers

  • Make sure the windscreen washer bottle is full
  • Adding antifreeze/cleaning additives to the water, is a good idea
  • Check the wiper blades for cuts and tears and replace if faulty
  • If your wipers are noisy, the blades might’ve hardened and will need to be replaced

Service your car regularly

Regular servicing can help pick up faults before they cause a breakdown. Find a local garage that offers good service and reasonable pricing.

Are your documents up to date?

It’s important to keep your vehicle paperwork up to date. Here are the main things you need to remember:

Road tax

  • The cost of road tax is determined by either engine size or fuel type and CO2 emissions
  • The easiest way to tax your vehicle is online where you can review road tax costs

Insurance

  • Make sure your vehicle’s covered by the most appropriate valid insurance policy

MOT

  • This is an annual basic safety check after the vehicle is 3 years old
  • Costs vary, but should be around £55 (find out more about MOT prices)
  • If a vehicle fails an MOT it needs to be repaired immediately, as it’s an offence to use it on the road (although you’re allowed to drive it to and from the MOT garage by prior arrangement)

Always plan ahead

  • If you are going on a journey, it’s a good idea to think ahead. As well as making sure the driver’s always fit to drive, here are some other tips:
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good condition with enough fuel
  • Take frequent rest stops, at least every two hours
  • Input any details into your Sat-Nav before setting off
  • Avoid driving in really poor weather, unless it’s essential
  • Have a fully charged mobile phone (and in-car charger) in case of emergencies
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to arrive
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