As the population ages, a considerable number of older drivers are finding themselves more at risk of being seriously injured or killed on the UK’s roads due to increased frailty and associated issues, such as reduced flexibility and slower reaction times. Statistics show that drivers aged 75 and over have a higher chance, per distance covered, of being killed in a road traffic collision (RTC) than any other age group – that includes young male drivers who have recently passed their test. It’s vital that elderly motorists appreciate the danger signs that indicate a decrease in their driving ability and all drivers, irrespective of age, need to beware of failing eyesight and the legal requirement to wear glasses or contact lenses when in control of a vehicle if prescribed to do so.

A review of the regulations on eyesight and driving has just been undertaken by the DVLA and new rules recently put in place now permit police officers to revoke the licence of any driver who fails a roadside eye test in a matter of hours rather than days. Once revoked, a driving licence may only be returned when the owner can demonstrate that their eyesight meets the required standard. The system has been dubbed ‘Cassie’s Law’ after a young girl was run over and killed by an 87-year old driver who had previously been advised not to drive his automatic Vauxhall Astra after failing an eyesight test following a minor RTC a few days earlier outside a local garage.

Officers who attended the scene had no powers to immediately suspend the offending driver’s licence and the errant motorist continued to drive while the police waited for the DVLA to deal with the matter by post. Regrettably, Mr Horsfall didn’t heed the officers’ advice to stop driving until his eyes had been medically tested and three days later ran over and killed Cassie McCord as she was walking to the town centre with a friend. Had the new regulations been in place when the police first tested Horsfall’s eyesight, his licence would have been electronically invoked on the spot and only reinstated when he could prove to the police and DVLA that he could read a standard registration plate at 20.5m (67ft).

As we get older our vision can deteriorate in a number of ways and some drivers can find it hard to judge distances. Focusing becomes more difficult too, especially when driving against a constant stream of bright headlights on a rain soaked road at night. Medical conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetes can all affect a driver’s vision and anyone suffering from of any of these ailments, irrespective of age, should regularly check with their doctor that they are fit to take control of a vehicle and that any medications taken to alleviate the condition won’t impair their ability to drive.

Although many older motorists are capable of driving long distances safely without cause for concern to other road users, a seemingly low-speed incident can often result in the death of an elderly driver or passenger due to their increased frailty; a major issue that can distort injury statistics towards older drivers. The physical and mental changes that come with aging can also affect the performance of older drivers. These include; slower reaction times, deterioration of clarity of hearing and vision, drowsiness caused by the use of prescription drugs and loss of muscle strength leading to reduced flexibility. We take good care of our cars as they get older, so there’s no excuse for drivers not to get a personal MoT at the local medical centre to ensure they are as well maintained as their pride and joy!

Whatever the age of the person behind the wheel, we all witness examples of bad driving every day and complain bitterly about inappropriate speeding, tailgating and inconsiderate road craft. As well as these madcap drivers, there’s another not so obvious menace on our roads, and that’s a slow driver that dithers about oblivious to all the traffic taking avoiding action to prevent a major pile-up. Even more annoying are those drivers that dawdle down a slip road and come to a complete stop at the end instead of accelerating and merging into the flow of traffic. Once on the motorway, these dawdlers usually settle down to a ‘safe’ speed of between 45mph and 50mph, not realising that 44-ton lorries are governed to 56-60mph and have to slow down to pull out into a stream of fast moving traffic to overtake. This is a highly dangerous manoeuvre for a big truck to make on a busy motorway, especially for continental drivers sitting on the wrong side of the cab. Much safer for these ‘Steady Eddies’ to keep to a more relaxing 60mph on a motorway or dual carriageway than get blamed for holding up the nation’s supply chain, or be responsible for causing a massive pile that ends up being just another motor insurance statistic.

Although many insurance companies refuse to cover senior drivers, specialist classic car insurer Footman James has raised its age limit from 75 and can now provide motor insurance for drivers prior to their 90th birthday. When a client turns 90 years old, the company will be required to refer the insurer for further instruction.

Andy Fairchild, Footman James’ managing director explained: “With an aging population, it’s essential that we work with as many car clubs as possible to respond quickly to market demands and we are delighted to be able to offer our valued customers cover for longer.”

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