It wasn’t long after the 97-year-old Duke of Edinburgh crashed his car that he agreed to surrender his driving licence.
Driving at this age is no longer a rarity, and the number of over 90s now driving in the UK has surpassed 100,000 for the first time.
Yet while the number of accidents involving older people steadily rises after the age of 75, it’s nowhere near that of the 21-27 male group, who are involved in three to four as many prangs as the under 75s, a Swansea University study found.
So how do you know when it’s time to hang up your driving gloves?
West Sussex County Council offers what they call an Experienced Driver Assessment, where a qualified driving instructor will come to the location you choose and accompany you as you drive around for 40 minutes in your own car, if you prefer.
They will assess your ability to use your mirrors, handle roundabouts, judge distances – and at the end of the session will first give you some verbal feedback followed by a written assessment with advice and recommendations.
“Sometimes there are no recommendations because the driver is perfectly fine,” said a spokesperson at the county council. “It’s not legally binding, and it can just be good for drivers who have maybe lost a bit of confidence – perhaps they’ve been ill, or suffered a stroke recently.
“They might just be told to come back in a year’s time for another assessment – they might be advised to go on a driving refresher course – only in rare cases will they be told they shouldn’t be driving anymore.”
Call 0330 222 8999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Emma Patterson is the principal solicitor at Patterson Law, a UK-wide firm that specialises in defending people in road traffic offences. She frequently defends older people who have been charged with driving without due care and attention.
“Cases do occur where drivers have had a lapse of judgement, where their reactions just aren’t fast anymore,” she says. “Coming to court can make them nervous, even if the accident wasn’t their fault. Just being investigated can lead to a loss of confidence.
“What often happens is that we persuade the court to drop the charges if a driver is willing to surrender their licence – and I suspect that’s what happened in Prince Philip’s case. In his case it appears he failed to observe a car coming and went into it, so I suspect the police or prosecutors were persuaded not to prosecute if he surrendered his licence.
“Where this has been imposed on people you can make an appeal, but really the families have a responsibility to step in if they sense an older member of their family shouldn’t be driving. Their doctor also has a duty of care and should say something.
“But it’s a very emotional step to take, it’s a massive step to give up driving, especially for people who might live in isolated places with no public transport.”
There is no mandatory eye test once you’ve passed your driving test, but once you hit 70 you are required to fill in a form to tell DVLA you’re still okay to drive. This must then be done every three years.
You must also tell DVLA of certain illnesses including diabetes, syncope (fainting), certain heart conditions, sleep apnoea, epilepsy, strokes or glaucoma. Here’s where to find out if you need to tell the DVLA: www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving
And if your GP tells you to stop driving because of your medical condition, you must do so.