Driving as you get older
During the coronavirus outbreak:
People requiring an MOT within the next three months from 30 March will receive an extension so that they don’t go out to the garages with their cars. However, you must keep your car roadworthy during this time and the police can still stop you if they need to.
You may have been driving for many years, but there are some things that you need to take into consideration as you get older and your circumstances change.
You and your Driving Licence
Can I ever be too old to drive?
There are over 4 million drivers who are over 70 years old. As there are no laws set in place as to when you have to stop driving, it really depends on your health and ability to drive. Together with your GP, you should have regular check-ups to see if you’re still up for the demands of the road. There is no upper age limit for driving a car. However, all drivers have to renew their driving licence when they reach the age of 70 and every three years from then on. The renewal form will be sent to you automatically by the Driver Vehicle Licence Agency (DVLA) 90 days before your 70th birthday. You can also renew your driving licence online for free any time from 90 days before your 70th birthday.
When completing the form you will need to declare any medical conditions you have and confirm that you meet the eyesight requirements for driving.
Visit Olderdrivers.org.uk for more details on the eyesight requirements for driving.
Am I fit enough to drive?
Each of us is personally responsible for making sure that we are fit to drive. Some physical or medical conditions must, by law, be reported to the DVLA. They will then send you a confidential medical form, asking you to describe your medical condition in greater detail, and to agree to getting a medical report from your GP. The latest General Medical Council guidance is that disclosure of personal information about a patient without consent may be justified in the public interest if failure to disclose may expose others to a risk of death or serious harm. This means that although it is your responsibility to disclose your health to the DVLA, the GP may believe that it is in the public interest to disclose. Doctors should still seek the patient’s consent to disclosure if practicable and consider any reasons given for refusal.
Visit Gov.uk for more information on health conditions and driving.
There are also some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines that can have an effect on the skills needed to drive safely, so you should check with your GP or Pharmacist that it’s still safe for you to drive.
Having a disability or medical condition does not necessarily mean that your driving licence will be affected. In some cases, however, your licence may be restricted, withdrawn or refused if you are applying for the first time. You may need to have a medical or driving test, both of which will be free.
The things to think about are:
- frailty and how an accident could affect you
- tiredness – don’t have long journeys at times you get the most tired and after meals
How to stay safe as an older driver
According to data gathered by the Older Drivers Task Force, “drivers over the age of 70 are less likely to be involved in crashes involving speed, loss of control or alcohol”. Despite these encouraging signs, there are extra steps you could take to further extend and enjoy your driving life, such as:
- Making modifications to your car to assist any visual or physical ailments
- If you have difficulty while walking you may qualify for a Blue Badge which gives you access to accessible parking
- Having regular medical and driving assessments
- Telling the DVLA about any medical conditions that may affect your ability to drive
For even more advice on age and driving, check out this advice for older drivers page.
Experienced Driver Assessments
If it is a long time since you passed your driving test and you would like an objective assessment of your current driving skills, you might like to have an Experienced Driver Assessment (EDA).
What is an EDA and who is it for?
An EDA may be useful for:
- people who wish to continue driving, but who feel slightly apprehensive about driving on today’s roads; or
- older people wishing to reassure themselves and their loved ones that they can still drive safely.
An EDA is not a test; it is an assessment which will provide an objective and confidential report on your driving ability.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) offers Experienced Driver Assessments.
What does an EDA involve?
The assessment will involve an hour’s drive in your own car, at a time and place convenient to you. A qualified driver who is registered with RoSPA will accompany you during the assessment. Afterwards, you will be given a confidential verbal and written report and a certificate of completion.
There is no pass or fail to the assessment, but your report may include suggestions on how you can improve specific driving skills and your all round driving ability.
Visit the RoSPA website to book an assessment.
Driving in the Winter
Before making a journey during bad weather you should make sure that you and your car are prepared. This includes:
- carrying an emergency kit (including warm clothing or blankets)
- checking water and oil levels
- checking all your lights work, including brake lights
- checking tyre tread depth;
- and making sure that you are well rested and fit to drive
Visit Gov.uk for more advice on driving in bad weather.
Taxing your car
Tax disc changes
Paper tax discs have now been replaced by electronic records, so you no longer need to display them in your car windscreen. Police cameras will be used to check car registration details to ensure the car is taxed.
Renewing your car tax
You still need to tax your car to keep it on the road. The DVLA will send you a V11 renewal reminder form when your current tax is about to expire.
There are three ways to renew your car tax:
- pay for your car tax online using the 16 digit number on your renewal reminder
- by phone
- at your local post office. You will need to take your V11 reminder form, MOT test certificate and the necessary payment with you.
Buying and selling your car
The remaining car tax is no longer transferred when you buy a vehicle. You will need to get new vehicle tax before you can use the vehicle.
If you sell your car and notify the DVLA, they will automatically send you a refund for any full calendar months left on your car tax.
You can check the tax on any vehicle at Gov.uk.
If you want to check the history and safety of a car, there are a number of websites that can help you. For example, Free car checks tells you whether the vehicle is stolen or has outstanding finance on it.
Low Speed Scooters and Buggies
If you no longer drive a car, or are not a car driver but need something to help you to get about, a wide variety of low speed buggies and scooters are available that can be driven either on the pavement or on the road, depending on the size of the scooter.
Disability North can give you advice on which vehicle might best suit your needs.
North East Drive Mobility aim to help people to retain or regain their independence as drivers or passengers. The service is open to experienced and learner drivers, provisional licence holders and passengers with a medical condition or disability which affects their ability to use a vehicle. The scheme offers:
- assessment of driving ability – this takes place on a purpose-built driving track, as well as on pubic roads
- advice on vehicle adaptations
- advice on getting in and out of a vehicle, and wheelchair storage
- specialist driving tuition
- information and advice service, including advice on alternatives to using a car, for example community transport services
You can refer yourself or be referred by your GP, occupational therapist, the DVLA, Motability or any other agencies.
Fuel Service help for disabled drivers
Fuel Service is a scheme to make travelling easier for disabled drivers. This is how it works:
- Use your mobile phone to find and book with a petrol station before you set off
- The petrol station confirms they will help so you can go there in confidence and you don’t waste your time
- When you arrive, FuelService tells them which pump you’re at, and they tell you how long they will be
- For smartphone users, it’s available as a free app
- For other mobile users you call an automated number
Other Useful Information
- Olderdrivers.org.uk – A National website from RoSPA
- Top Tips for older drivers – Age UK’s factsheet
- LifeBook – Free resource from Age UK where you write important and useful information about your life, from who insures your car to where you put the TV licence.
Last updated: April 7, 2020