Expert provides insight on whether older drivers are more dangerous

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Last month it was revealed that three-quarters of motorists believe that those aged over 70 should take mandatory “fit to drive tests”. However, the idea has since been criticised by older motorists who hit out at the proposals. A number of readers commented on the news saying that it is simply “ridiculous”. But what do the experts think? 

Tom Hixon, head of instructor support at Bill Plant Driving School, told that in order to settle the debate drivers must look at official statistics. 

Mr Hixon said: “When evaluating driving groups for their relative levels of danger, it is important to analyse and evaluate official statistics.

“UK Government data has revealed that between 2016-2021, almost 50 percent of road traffic casualties were involving at least one driver aged 17-24, whereas only 19 percent of fatal accidents involved a driver over the age of 50.

“While the data shows those aged 86 years and over have the highest rates of collisions in 2020 at over 2,000 per billion vehicle miles travelled, as a total proportion of road users, there are far fewer 86-plus-year-olds than those younger drivers.”

The expert continued: “With those over 70 currently required to reapply for their driving licence every three years, the data does not support those between 70-85 completing their driving test for a second time, however, there may be some merit for those over 86 years old.”

Mr Hixon also stressed it has been reported that younger drivers are more likely to behave “recklessly or with less care and control which can result in these dangerous collisions”.

He added: “Alongside their relative inexperience, we can assume that younger drivers are more dangerous on the roads.

“Regarding the debate surrounding young drivers vs old drivers, the statistics show there are extremes at both ends in terms of rates of collisions.

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“It is important that given accidents involving these groups tend to differ in terms of causation, that younger drivers, in particular, remain more patient and elderly drivers are fully alert when out on the road.”

Kevin Pratt, car insurance spokesperson at Forbes Advisor, echoed Mr Hixon’s claims adding that the UK roads are getting more and more crowded possibly resulting in more dangers. 

Mr Pratt said: “The UK’s roads are getting more crowded, with improved longevity playing its part as drivers stay behind the wheel for longer.

“But how do we manage the potential problem of having an increasing number of drivers with declining faculties and health problems that might impair their driving ability and lead to accidents?

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“Many older drivers will tell you that their experience and cool-headedness make them safer drivers in the same way that inexperience and exuberance can make those under 25 a riskier proposition.

“But others will argue that a mandatory health test for those above a certain age makes sense, as only those that fail will be affected, with wider benefits for road users generally.”

Recent data from the DVSA showed that the number of driving tests taken by those aged 50 or older has increased by a whopping 259 percent in the last year alone. 

Between 2021 and 2022, more than three times as many tests were taken by that age group, compared to the previous 12 months. 

Officials are estimating that there could be more than one million motorists aged 85 or over on UK roads by 2025. 

Mr Pratt said: “Should there be a blanket requirement to surrender your licence when you reach, say, 85?

“That seems draconian, given that there are bad drivers and good drivers at every age. But the Government will need to confront the issue at some point given the demographic factors that are slowly but surely putting more elderly drivers on the road.”

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