Driving after 60: What you need to know
27th February 2019
Practice makes perfect, and the same can be said for driving. As you begin to drive, you become more experienced, and manoeuvring your car becomes second nature. Your confidence will grow and soon, your ability to drive will become one of your most vital life skills. Driving is incredibly important; not only does it provide you with a sense of freedom, but it opens up new opportunities. When you get older, retaining your independence may be one of the most important things to you, so maintaining the ability to handle a car is essential. However, as your body begins to change with age, with your mental agility not quite as sharp as it once was, when is it time to consider if you’re still safe behind the wheel?
Driving after 70
When you reach the age of 70, you are required to reapply for a new license. Although this is a necessity, it doesn’t mean that your driving needs to cease. Before your 70th birthday, and every three years after that, you will need to fill out a D46P form and send it to the DVLA for approval, as failure to reapply means that you won’t legally be able to operate a car. The form will be sent to you several months before your birthday as a reminder, and information about how to fill it out, as well as the requirements for your new photocard ID, will be included. The receipt of this form is a great time to rethink whether or not you still wish to drive, as it causes you to assess how safe you are on the roads.
According to The BBC:
“The Department for Transport says there is no evidence that older drivers are more likely to cause an accident, and it has no plans to restrict licensing or mandate extra training on the basis of age”
What’s more, the RAC has found that 6% of all drivers are over the age of 75, yet only make-up a small portion of all deaths and serious injuries on the road. With only 4.3% of serious road traffic collisions caused by this age group, it suggests that they are safer on the road than those between 16-20 who, by contrast, make-up 2.5% of all drivers but cause 13% of all serious injuries. Although these statistics are important to consider, it is also important to consider why these accidents are happening.
Accidents can be caused due to a number of different things, including your mental and physical capabilities. Your mental dexterity is imperative for a number of reasons. Not only does it allow you to make informed decisions quickly, but it keeps your memory sharp. With many years of driving under your belt, you may find that certain movements are part of your muscle memory, but you shouldn’t rely on that alone. Although staying alert is absolutely crucial, and can be improved upon with puzzles and crosswords, there are certain elements of your ageing body that are out of your hands including your eyesight and medical conditions.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at how you can stay safe on the roads in older age and what precautions you should take to minimise the chance of accidents. From what to do if you’ve recently been diagnosed with a health condition to book a reassessment with an instructor, find out more below.
Throughout your life, you may have noticed changes to your eyesight. With many of these issues being age-related, it is only natural that eyesight can get worse with time. This decline often shows no signs of stopping, meaning that stronger prescriptions are often necessary, as are more regular check-ups. Although glasses are something that can combat poor sight, making sure that you always have these on hand when driving will ensure that you can see both road signs and number plates clearly, something that is required during your driving test.
If you need glasses whilst driving, this is not cause for concern. However, if you suffer from other eye-related conditions, this could be something to flag up with a medical professional. For most people who have declining eyesight, there is a very slim chance that this will develop into something more serious. However, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy are some of the most common conditions that you will need to inform the DVLA of.
Driving with Glaucoma
Glaucoma is an umbrella term for many conditions relating to the optic nerve. A glaucoma diagnosis is quite common and shouldn’t cause too much concern, however, it can impact your driving. According to Moorfields Hospital, “about 2% of the population aged over 40 have the condition.”
When your optic nerve becomes damaged and subsequently detaches from the eye, your vision can become irreversibly affected, although treatment can prevent further loss of sight. There are no symptoms of glaucoma, so regular eye tests are imperative in order for you to stay on top of this condition. With regular monitoring, many people with glaucoma find that their sight experiences no further signs of decline, which is brilliant news.
When to tell the DVLA that you have glaucoma:
- If both eyes are affected by the condition.
- If you have glaucoma in one eye, with a field of vision problems in the other.
- If you have glaucoma in one eye, with a medical condition in the other.
- If you can’t meet the visual standards for driving.
Driving with Macular degeneration
Macular degeneration most commonly affects people aged between 50 and 60 and is one of the biggest causes of sight loss in the UK. Look After Your Eyes, a website created by The College of Optometrists discloses that over 600,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with the condition and although it can lead to severe sight loss if left untreated when managed, people can live normal lives.
Although it comes in many forms, age-related macular degeneration is the most common form and causes blurriness to vision. As a result of this, macular degeneration can cause problems with driving, as distorted vision can impact your judgements. For those diagnosed with this condition, total blindness is not a symptom, but a decline in your eyesight can feel just as debilitating.
When to tell the DVLA that you have macular degeneration
- If macular degeneration affects both eyes.
- If you can’t meet the visual standards for driving.
Driving with Diabetic Retinopathy
There are many complications which are associated with diabetes, including damage to your nerves and kidneys, hearing problems, and a loss of sight. Diabetic retinopathy is one of these conditions and, if left untreated, can result in total blindness.
High blood sugar as a result of diabetes causes irreparable damage to the blood vessels in the eyes, causing problems with the retina. “When these blood vessels are damaged, they can get blocked, leak or grow randomly. This means the retina can’t get the blood it needs and so can’t work properly. Which means you won’t be able to see properly”, Diabetes UK states.
When to tell the DVLA that you have diabetes
- If you have or have had, retinopathy in both eyes.
- If you only have sight in one eye.
- If you can’t meet the visual standards for driving.
What are the DVLA’s visual standards?
The DVLA enforces visual standards to minimise the likelihood of accidents caused by sight-related issues. As part of your practical driving examination, you are required to read the number plate of a car made after September 1st, 2001 from 20m. In order to do this, you may need to wear glasses or contact lenses. However, if the use of either is necessary, you must wear these each time you are behind the wheel. The DVLA also states that:
“You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye.”
No matter how small, checking the DVLA website for your medical condition is incredibly useful as failure to do so can land you with a fine of up to £1,000. Although your diagnosis may not seem as though it can impact your driving ability, it is better to be safe than sorry when disclosing this. If it is deemed serious enough for your license to be revoked, there is always the possibility for this to be reinstated in the future, so cooperation here is key. Additionally, it may be worth contacting your insurer, as a recent condition could mean that you need to change your policy.
Although changes to your health are the biggest concern of the DVLA, medication can also have an impact especially if it is accompanied by side effects such as drowsiness or dizziness. Before sitting behind the wheel of the car, contact your GP for more information about driving on your medication. This way, you will be able to make an informed decision on how safe it is to drive and will give you no reason to worry.
Some of the most common conditions that you need to disclose include stroke, epilepsy, and sleep apnea, although a range of age-related conditions including arthritis and Alzheimer’s are also noteworthy.
Driving with Arthritis
When you have arthritis, you may find that driving becomes increasingly more difficult due to stiffness and inflammation in your joints. This can be detrimental when it comes to steering, using switches such as the indicators and applying pressure to the foot pedals. During periods where your arthritis is particularly bad, you may need to withhold from driving until you feel better and perhaps consider installing a stair lift in your home. However, if your symptoms don’t improve, then you may need to stop driving.
When to tell the DVLA that you have arthritis
- If you use special controls for driving.
- If your doctor believes it could affect your driving.
Driving with Alzheimer’s
“A diagnosis of dementia is not in itself a reason to stop driving. One in every three people with dementia still drives. What matters, from both a legal and a practical point of view, is whether the person is still able to drive safely”, the Alzheimer’s Society notes. However, Alzheimer’s in the later stages can impact your ability to make safe and informed judgements which can greatly impact your driving.
When to tell the DVLA that you have Alzheimer’s
- Upon Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Driving with Epilepsy
Epilepsy can start at any age, but its onset should be taken incredibly seriously, especially if you suffer from a seizure that causes you to lose consciousness. Although one seizure does not mean that you’re likely to have another one any time soon, it is best to take some time away from driving just in case and for your symptoms to be monitored.
When to tell the DVLA that you have epilepsy
- If you’ve had an epileptic attack and lost consciousness in the last year.
- If you’ve had an attack due to a change of medication in the last six months.
- If you’ve had a one-off seizure whilst awake and lost consciousness.
- If you’ve had an attack both while conscious and asleep.
- If you’ve had an attack whilst you were asleep.
- If you’ve had an attack that doesn’t affect your consciousness or driving ability.
Driving after a Stroke
As a stroke can vary in severity, it is often difficult to understand how it will impact your driving in the long term. For the first month following a stroke, avoiding driving is necessary. This period is crucial, as it allows medical professionals to monitor your progress, as well as highlight any causes for concern. After the first month, the Stroke Association advises that: “It is possible to return to driving as long as it’s safe to do so and you follow the right procedures. Your stroke team may be involved in assessing the skills you need for driving. They can also advise whether it is safe for you to return to driving.”
When to tell the DVLA that you have had a stroke
- If you are still experiencing problems one month after your stroke.
Before embarking on any journey, you’ll need to check that your car is roadworthy. There are several different things for you to think about; from whether you have enough petrol to get you to your destination and whether your oil levels need checking, to ensuring that all your important documents are in order, such as insurance and tax.
It can be easy to forget little things, especially when you get older. Although the biggest concern with memory loss is how well you manage the driving, you’ll need to know exactly when paperwork needs to be updated and when to schedule an MOT for your car in order for it to be in working order. Naturally, these are both things that you can enlist some help with to help you keep track, but it is good for you to know how to sort out these things in case of an emergency.
Keeping on top of your Paperwork
Your car documentation is something that you should always stay on top of as without it, you may be driving illegally. Sometimes staying on top of dates for things can be difficult, so writing these down on a calendar or in a diary is a good way of ensuring that you don’t miss a deadline. If you use a smartphone or tablet, you can programme an alert to let you know when the deadline is approaching, which will give you plenty of time to fill in any necessary forms.
In older age, it may be useful to have a helping hand when looking for the best insurance policy or updating your road tax. Often if you have been with an insurance provider for a long time, you might not be paying the right tariff, and could end up with an expensive bill each month. Browsing the internet with a friend or family member, you can look at changing your policy to a better rate. Plus, having guidance from somebody else will ensure that you stay safe on the internet when entering confidential information, such as your card details.
Your car tax is something else that you will need to make sure is renewed each year. Depending on how environmentally-friendly your vehicle is, the cost will vary, with newer models typically charged less. The easiest way to do this is to fill in the V11 form on the Government website, but if you struggle with technology, filling this out in the presence of someone else will put your mind at ease that you’re doing it right.
What does my car need in order to be roadworthy?
- It needs to be taxed.
- It needs to have insurance.
- It needs to have a valid MOT.
Making sure your Car is roadworthy
According to Motoring on a Budget, “Buying a car and paying for fuel, insurance, tax and all the other things that keep you on the road is always a fairly expensive exercise. However, add things like new tyres, oil changes, engine checks, repairs and maintenance costs into the equation and it can seem like the list of motoring related bills is never-ending. As a motorist, you are always going to have some maintenance costs but there are a number of things that you can do to keep your car roadworthy and keep the mechanics at bay, and these include taking care of your tyres, your lights and your car's general maintenance.”
What does your car need to be roadworthy?
- Tyre pressure should be correct.
- Tyres should have a minimum tread of 1.6mm.
- Top up oil.
- Top up water.
- Top up anti-freeze.
- Ensure brake pads are in working order.
- Check car exterior is clean and number plates visible.
- Check all lights are in working order.
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