OAP drivers: a liability?


Older drivers need to take a refresher course once they reach a certain age. Not exactly a controversial statement, but this advice to the Government has come from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, or PACTS.

Mild-mannered where Brake is hysterical and far more influential within the corridors of power, PACTS could see this one pushed through.

We all know the dangers of elderly drivers. If we need reminding, there's that shot of 93-year-old Jack Higgs' Fiesta resting upside on PistonHeader Family Guy's Porsche 993 back in 2008.

Or how about footage of an 84-year-old woman in Philidelphia driving the wrong way upan interstate in 2010.

But at the same time we all fear the day we'd have to permanently hand over the keys for our own safety. Not that we'll be forced to. In the UK, you have to reapply for your licence every three years after turning 70. But here's no test, no medical, just a declaration from yourself that, yep, I'm still an A1 wheelsmith.

We can't go on like this, reckons PACTS. As a country we're getting older, with one in six now aged over 65, with one in four predicted in 2050. We're hanging onto our licences longer too. Back in 1975, only 15 per cent of people over 70 kept their licences. As of 2010, it was over half.

Japan is our crystal ball. The ageing population over there has turned the Toyko motor show into the equivalent of a Motability exhibition, with a huge array of gadgets and converted vehicles to keep older people driving.

Given all that, the PACTS idea of a mandatory course makes sense. "It would be a refresher course to outline difficulties they face and suggest ways they could make it easier to drive more safely," said a PACTS spokeswoman.

The role model is the SAGE course in Gloucestershire, where older drivers voluntarily sign themselves up for the £30, hour-long monitored drive. Or they can be referred to by the police or (brave) relatives.

PACTS points out the speed awareness course network could easily be adapted to include the older drivers, but is nicely concerned about drivers getting ominous looking letters through the door from the local camera partnership. "It's vital that the course providers are seen as a non-threatening organisation."

It all sounds very sensible, this author having personal experience of the family split following the attempt to prise the keys to a Peugeot 106 from a 94-year-old relative last year. An official thumbs down on safety grounds would have saved a lot of additional heartache.

So what do you think? Mandatory courses sound like a good idea? Or does the government need to go further still?

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (267) Join the discussion on the forum

  • dapearson 13 Mar 2012

    I posted this on another thread a while back, but it seems fitting to post it again here.

    Worst piece of bad driving i've seen was an old lady pulling out of a lay-by in front of me a couple of years ago.

    It was the sort of long lay-by that's separated from the dual carriageway by chevrons. I saw ahead that she was starting to move forward from where she was parked, but there was time for me to stay in the inside lane and i would be past before she exited from the junction at the end of the lay-by.

    Unfortunately that's not what she did. She turned immediately right ACROSS the chevrons and into my path!

    I swerved into the outside lane, resulting in a tyre squealing slide at 70mph. I gathered it up, and then sat in the inside lane at 50 mph, cursing old people. No doubt she was "tutting" to herself at the hooligan that hadn't pulled over for her un-indicated and dangerous 90 degree turn into dual carriageway traffic.

  • TheOrangePeril 13 Mar 2012

    IMO there should be mandatory refresher courses for all ages, not just OAPs! Considering the pathetic ease with which you can get a license in the UK, there should really be a re-test or refresher every ten years, increasing to a more concise period for older drivers. A lot of bad habits form in the first ten-twenty years of driving which are then further exacerbated by ageing issues in the last ten-twenty years.

    Generally a good idea, but we shouldn't discount the huge numbers of younger bad drivers that could also benefit from refreshers in this vein.

  • 325Ti 13 Mar 2012

    I think it's a good idea.
    Many older people are still perfectly safe on the roads, but there are some who are a danger to themselves and others around them.
    Also very important if the 80 mph speed limit on motorways is passed

  • cbrbiker13 13 Mar 2012

    My Granddad's both 78 were driving when they shouldn't be, one in a B-Class Mercedes that did everything for him, the other in a really old Polo that shouldn't have been, in the end unfortunately one died, not as a result of a car accident. The other had the car taken from him by family...
    At the end of the day people will say it's common sense, but I wouldn't want someone telling me what to do with my licence after paying my dues for years...

  • doogz 13 Mar 2012

    TheOrangePeril said:
    IMO there should be mandatory refresher courses for all ages, not just OAPs! Considering the pathetic ease with which you can get a license in the UK, there should really be a re-test or refresher every ten years, increasing to a more concise period for older drivers. A lot of bad habits form in the first ten-twenty years of driving which are then further exacerbated by ageing issues in the last ten-twenty years.

    Generally a good idea, but we shouldn't discount the huge numbers of younger bad drivers that could also benefit from refreshers in this vein.
    I agree with this.

    A guy in work the other day was nipping out for lunch, and asked if i wanted to come.

    We got in his auto 9-3, and he drove the whole way with one hand at 12 o'clock, the other sat on top of the gear stick, for no apparent reason, and never checked a single mirror once. I don't understand how people drive like this every day, and don't have regular accidents.

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