Eye tests for drivers turning 70 could become mandatory under new plans being considered by the government.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is researching whether compulsory checks could make Britain’s roads safer. At present, licences expire when motorists reach 70 and must be renewed every three years. Drivers have to declare their eyesight meets legal standards and flag up other relevant medical conditions, but there are no compulsory assessments.
One proposal would involve drivers over 70 undergoing an eye test every three years to keep their licence. However, a full public consultation would be held before any decision is made, said the DfT.
More and more over 70s are now on the road. According to DfT figures, 67 per cent of people in the oldest age bracket had a driving licence in 2018, up from 64 per cent a year earlier. In the mid-1990s, only 33 per cent of those aged over 70 got behind the wheel.
The DfT insisted that “age should not be a barrier” and that motorists’ knowledge, experience and skills could improve over time. However, it also acknowledged that they deteriorate based on age, experience and declining cognitive and physical capability.
Last year, 4603 drivers over 70 had their licences revoked because of their eyesight, the DfT said. Separate figures reveal that in the past five years, 37 people have been killed and almost 1100 people injured in crashes where uncorrected or defective eyesight was a contributing factor.
While the number of young road user deaths has continued to fall, the number of deaths of those aged 65-74, 75-84 and 85-plus has remained flat over the past 10 years. The government wants those numbers to fall.
A DfT spokeswoman said: “The UK has some of the safest roads in the world, but we are always looking at ways to make them safer. As part of this, we want to find out more about how eyesight testing could play a role in reducing the number of fatalities on our roads.”