Over 70s face driving curfews, trackers and distance limits

Proposals could see older drivers with medical issues keep their licences if they agree to monitoring and restrictions

old couple putting on seatbelts

Drivers over the age of 70 with certain medical conditions could be subject to limits such as night-time curfews and restrictions on how far they could travel in return for keeping their licences.

The proposals were discussed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the charity Driving Mobility, and could see motorists with conditions such as dementia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and insulin-treated diabetes have trackers fitted to their cars, restricting both the times at which they were allowed to drive, and the distances away from home they could travel.

Under current rules, motorists must renew their licences with the DVLA when they hit 70, declaring if they have conditions and illnesses that affect their ability to drive. Those suffering from such conditions can see their licence renewals declined, losing their ability to drive.

Discussions between DVLA and Driving Mobility, however, suggest that instead of a total loss of their licences, older motorists could face certain restrictions, such as only being allowed to drive during daylight hours, and being limited to traveling within 20 or 30 miles of their homes.

The discussions, reported by the Sunday Times, could result in greater freedom for older drivers with certain medical conditions, whose cars could be fitted with telematics devices, similar to those younger drivers with ‘black box’ insurance policies have. 

In addition to night-time and distance restrictions, older drivers would, like black-box policyholders, have their braking, acceleration and cornering forces measured by the devices, with authorities being alerted if they exhibit worrying driving behaviour. Combined, the restrictions would amount to ‘graduated driving licences’, an idea usually associated with younger drivers.  

The Sunday Times reports that Edward Trewhella, chief executive of Driving Mobility, said: “A lot of older drivers stick within their own locality — they go to the shop, the doctor’s surgery, go and see a granddaughter down the road, probably on minor roads with which they are familiar.” Trewhella said the proposals “would regularise that, and make it legal for them to do so as long as they didn’t take a trip outside of an area or outside of a time restriction. That would mean that they were driving safely within their familiar environment.”

The proportion of over 70s with driving licences has doubled over the last 25 years. Driving provides a social and cultural lifeline for many people in this age group, particularly those living in rural areas, or who have conditions that make accessing public transport difficult. There are concerns, however, that while fatalities for most age groups have remained stable in recent years, the over 70s have witnessed a steep climb in this regard.  

Figures from some police forces, meanwhile, indicate as many as 30 per cent of over 70s with ‘notifiable’ medical conditions fail to inform the DVLA of them, as they are required to by law. Department for Transport Data analysed by the Sunday Times shows over 70s are more likely to be involved in collisions where the cause is listed as “driver failed to look properly”, “driver failed to judge other person’s path or speed”, “poor turn or manoeuvre”, and “driver illness or disability, mental or physical”.

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Edmund King, president of the AA, said authorities should tread “very, very carefully before introducing restrictions” as the loss of a driving licence can result in severe loneliness among older people, a privation that has been shown to be as damaging to health as smoking. King added that doctors and other medical professions should ensure they report notifiable medical conditions.

The Department for Transport has subsequently dismissed the idea of restrictions on over 70s with certain medical conditions, saying: “It is the law that all drivers must tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency about any medical conditions which might affect their driving. There are no plans to introduce graduate driving licenses for drivers aged 70 or over.”

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