Older motorists caught driving carelessly shouldn’t be penalised, say experts

Older drivers should be able to run red lights without getting points on their licence, a government-funded road safety report has recommended.

The Older Drivers Task Force has called for trial schemes, which allow over 70s to take a fitness to drive test when caught driving carelessly instead of facing legal penalties, to be rolled out nationally.

The task force, which is a body of independent experts, has also called for older drivers to face mandatory eye tests as part of their licence renewals.

The recommendations come as the panel said the Government should aim to halve the deaths of over 70s in car crashes by 2030.

In its proposals, which the Department for Transport will consider, the task force said the evaluation scheme being run in places like Hampshire should be rolled out across the country.

The scheme means drivers caught committing offences such as accidentally running a red light, unnecessarily slow driving, or poor motorway lane discipline, can be offered a fitness to drive assessment.

Drivers who opt for this version are then assessed by specially qualified occupational therapists and driving instructors.

‘Most older drivers are very safe’

When someone is found to be unsafe behind the wheel, a report is sent to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency who considers whether to revoke their licence.

In other cases, the driver is sent away to get lessons and offered a reassessment within three months.

Those being assessed would avoid the typical £100 fine and three penalty points for careless driving, which is also known as driving without due care and attention.

Rolling out fitness to drive assessments across the UK would help to reduce deaths and serious injuries among older drivers, the report stated.

The recommendations have been backed by motoring organisations.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Allowing older drivers to remain mobile is critical to their mental and physical wellbeing, but so is safety.

“A system which helps people address their shortcomings rather than simply penalises them could help maintain this balance.

“Most older drivers are very safe and self-regulate their driving, avoiding travelling at night or during rush hour, for example.”

Meanwhile, the report also called on the Government to halve the deaths of older drivers over the next decade, warning they are “over-represented” in road fatalities.

The report also called for T-junctions, where most accidents occur, to be made safer and for more research to be done into “pedal confusion” as a cause of crashes among older drivers

However, experts said the higher percent of deaths among older drivers was not down to the “inexperience” often behind the crashes of young drivers, but because of “relative frailty”.

The task force also called for eye tests to become mandatory when drivers have to renew their licence at age 70 and then every three years after.

It said that applicants should be required to provide proof of a “satisfactory vision test” taken in the 12 months up to their renewal.

The report also called for T-junctions, where most accidents occur, to be made safer and for more research to be done into “pedal confusion” as a cause of crashes among older drivers.

Following the report, Dr Suzy Charman, the task force’s executive director, urged the Government to implement the recommendations to avoid the number of older drivers dying as the population ages.

She said: “We want to increase the pace of progress to ensure that we do not see the expected rise in the number of older drivers killed or seriously injured in road crashes. 

“Key recommendations such as introducing mandatory eye tests at licence renewal at age 70 are considered essential and lifesaving. 

“We hope the Department for Transport welcomes the report and can provide the leadership necessary to ensure these recommendations are taken forward. Not only will this make driving safer for older drivers, but it will also provide a legacy of safer roads for generations to come.”

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