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Nine out of 10 elderly drivers afraid of losing independence without licence

Article By: Michaela Mildenhall

Almost half of drivers aged 70 and over fear they would lose their identity if they didn’t drive, according to a survey.

More than 200 drivers are over the age of 100 in the UK. Credit: ITV

Some 91 per cent of older drivers believe they would lose their independence if their licence were to be taken away, according to a poll of 2,003 UK drivers conducted by the charity Independent Age.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, said: “For many older people, being able to drive means so much more than just being able to get out-and-about.

"Whether it’s keeping in touch with family and friends or continuing to do their shopping, driving can help maintain a sense of independence, and identity too.”

The charity has been working with the TV producers of ITV’s ‘100-Year-Old Driving School’ which features some of Britain’s oldest motorists who agree to sit a driving assessment set by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

At the end of the programme, RoSPA examiners let the older drivers know whether they should still be on the roads. Ninety-three-year-old Geoffrey from Ipswich, is one of the older people featured in the programme. He said: “I have been driving since I was 18 and I would be lost without it. Driving means everything to me. It gives me freedom to go somewhere without asking anyone else to help.”

Like many older drivers, Geoffrey fears that having his licence taken away would mean he was a burden to friends and family. He added: “I couldn’t bear to be a burden on my family, saying ‘Take me here, take me there.’ I would hate to have to ask and lose my independence.”

Some 57 per cent of those polled, worry they won't be able to spend as much time with family and friends, if they don't have a licence. Some 73 per cent felt they ‘would feel reluctant to ask friends or family for lifts if they were no longer able to drive’.

A fifth drive grandkids to school and back

However, the poll also suggests many older people are relied on by friends and family, with more than a quarter of older drivers using their car for caring responsibilities, and more than a fifth driving grandchildren to and from school or to extra-curricular activities.

There are more than 200 drivers over the age of 100 in the UK. Motorists over 70-years-old must reapply for a driving licence every three years but are not automatically re-tested.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) believes drivers have no need to fear the worst and instead can take regular assessments and visit the opticians more regularly.

Mr Clinton said: “As we get older, changes in our fitness and eyesight can affect our ability to drive safely but there are lots of things we can do to continue driving safely for as long as possible, such as taking regular driving assessments, planning when and where we drive to avoid situations we find difficult, taking advice from our GP, family and friends, or adapting our car.”

Independent Age has produced driving tips in its free guide: ‘Behind the Wheel: Tips for safe and confident driving in later life’. It includes the law relating to older drivers and driving with medical conditions and when to think about stopping driving. The guide can be downloaded from the Independent Age website.

An episode of the three-part documentary: ‘100-Year-Old Driving School’ is scheduled to be broadcast on ITV at 9pm on 12 September.


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