‘Fit To Drive’ Tests – Or Even Licence Surrender? – Forbes Advisor UK

February 1, 2023

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With more older motorists on the road than ever before, we conducted a survey to find out current perceptions and attitudes towards them.

Using a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults, we found that 77% of motorists believe that drivers aged 70 and above should take regular, mandatory ‘fit to drive’ tests in order to keep their licence.

And more than half (51%) of the people we asked think every driver should have to surrender his or her licence – regardless of their health and fitness – when they reach advanced age. 

According to government figures, about 75% of all adults in the UK aged over 70 hold a full driving licence, up from 59% in 2012 and from just 45% in 2002. 

And data from the Association of British Insurers shows the frequency and cost of claims starts to rise among drivers as they hit their 70s. Only 18-20 year-olds have a higher average claim figure than those aged over 80.

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So what are the other key findings from our survey?

Who thinks they’re safest?

Older drivers, aged 70 and over, consider themselves among the safest on the roads – but younger motorists might disagree. 

Asked ‘which age group do you think is the least safe on the roads?’, drivers over 70 were chosen by more than a fifth (22%) of respondents. 

In terms of general perception, that made them the second most dangerous group behind motorists at the other end of the age spectrum – 25 and under – who were named the least safe by more than a third (37%) of people.

By comparison, only eight per cent of respondents aged over 70 named their own age group as the least safe, with 55% of them pointing the finger instead at under-25s. 

Respondents aged under 25 were more likely to recognise their own relative inexperience, with 15% of them saying their own age group was the least safe on the roads, compared to 19% believing over-70s and 22% thinking 56-70-year-olds were least safe.


Are elderly drivers dangerous?

Respondents were also asked more broadly if they thought over-70s were a danger on the roads – 36% of people said yes, 37% no. The remaining 27% said they didn’t know or preferred not to say. 

However, 44% of under-25s surveyed said they considered over-70s a danger, as did 51% of respondents aged 25-34 and 50% of those aged 35-44. 

Again, only eight per cent of over-70s surveyed said they thought their age group presented a driving menace. 


Should elderly drivers be made to surrender their licence?

Asked if drivers should be made to give up their licence at a certain age, regardless of their health and fitness, 51% of all those surveyed said yes, with most of those (12%) saying it should happen in someone’s early 80s. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the idea curried less favour with respondents in the older age brackets – 55% of those over 70 said no such law should be introduced, although more than a third (34%) said it was a good idea.


Should elderly drivers face mandatory ‘fit to drive’ tests?

A different scenario was also put forward, asking if drivers aged 70 and over should face mandatory health and fitness checks in order to keep their licence. Overwhelmingly, this was an idea met with support – 77% overall said they agreed to some degree, with even 62% of over-70s saying they were in favour of being tested. 

Currently, drivers over 70 have to renew their licence every three years but do not face any mandatory health or fitness tests to do so.


Are you more forgiving of elderly drivers?

The research also revealed where the most forgiving drivers are when it comes to encountering older-age motorists. 

One third of people in the West Midlands said they would be more forgiving of an elderly motorist who caused an incident than they would with other road users – the highest in the UK. In Scotland, just 12% said they would be more forgiving – the UK’s lowest. 

Most respondents (63%) said they would treat an older driver no differently than anyone else, while five per cent said they would be harder on an older driver if they had caused an incident than with someone of a younger age.

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