As people get older their general health and abilities often deteriorate. This may be a gradual process and people might not realise it’s happening to them, so won’t necessarily notice if their driving is affected. They may have driven their entire life and take great pride in their safety record however as people age, it is critical that we realise driving ability can change.
To continue driving safely, there is a need to recognise that changes can happen, get help when they do, and be willing to listen if others voice concerns.
Older drivers have far fewer crashes than younger drivers because they tend to take fewer risks, such a speeding. However, an older person’s risk of being killed or suffering a serious injury as a result of a collisions, whether in a car or as a pedestrian or cyclist, is between 2 and 5 times greater than that of a younger person because of their increased physical frailty.
For most people as they age, general health and fitness, eyesight, hearing, reaction-time and physical mobility will begin to deteriorate. Older drivers may unknowingly experience physical and psychological health problems, which will vary widely from person to person. Tests have shown that, on average, drivers aged over 55yrs take 22% longer to react than drivers under 30yrs. This would add 2 car lengths to the stopping distance if braking from 70mph.
To be able to drive safely you need to adhere to a few things related to vision:
- Should be able to read a vehicle number plate, in good daylight, from a distance of 20 metres (or 20.5 metres where the old style number plate is used).
- If you need to wear glasses (or contact lenses) to do this, they must be worn at all times while driving.
- The police have the power to require a driver to undertake an eyesight test.
Medication can have an impact on driving. It is important to consider the following before driving if you take medication:
- Underlying health conditions, and some types of medication taken to treat those problems, are a more common factor in accidents involving older drivers. Indeed, a proportion of older driver fatalities occur when a driver dies of natural causes while driving, and their vehicle immediately crashes.
- It is important to remember that driving when impaired by drugs does not only apply to illegal drugs, many prescription or over-the-counter drugs can also impair ability to drive. If someone is unsure of the effects of legal or prescribed drugs, they should talk to their doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional before driving.