Driving over the age of 70: what you need to know

AT4PMT retired person driving motor car. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

As we get older, reaction times and possible health problems means we might not be as safe on the road as we once were, and at the age of 70, Brits are asked to renew their licence every three years. If you're approaching the milestone birthday, here's what you need to know about renewing your licence, and undergoing a driving assessment if necessary.

How to renew
Since the law requires you to renew your licence at 70, the DVLA should send you an application 90 days before your birthday. Renewal is free - all you need to do is fill in the form (D46P) and include your photo card licence along with its paper counterpart. If you still have a paper licence, you will need to enclose it and include an original document such as your passport or confirmation of eligibility for the State Pension by way of identification. In both cases, you will more than likely need a new passport photo. Alternatively, you can renew your licence online at the Gov UK website, following the step-by-step instructions. If for some reason your application form does not arrive, call the DVLA on 0300 790 6801 or pick one up from the Post Office. Remember, you will need to repeat the process every three years after your 70th birthday.

It may be that you need to undergo a reassessment of your driving ability to ensure that you are still safe on the road. This could be because you have developed a medical condition or disability that makes driving more difficult, or because you feel you would benefit from an assessment yourself. If you, your family members of doctor have expressed concerns, the DVLA can refer you to a Mobility Centre for a free assessment of your current situation and suggest ways in which you can continue to drive, perhaps with the aid of some vehicle adaptations to make life easier. Bear in mind, however, that there may be a lengthy wait for the service, and you may find that paying yourself will speed up the process.

During the assessment, staff at the Mobility Centre will discuss the concerns raised, either by yourself or your doctor, and do everything they can to help you stay on the road. You will need to undergo a physical assessment to establish how much movement you have in your arms and legs, and how easily you can operate the controls, a cognitive assessment testing your reaction speed, and an eyesight assessment. Your position and strength at the wheel will also be looked at.

The assessor will then go through all of the test results with you, and suggest adaptations that might allow you to continue driving. Everything from hand controls instead of pedals to switches that control the car's functions are available to help you, so don't assume that you'll be banned from driving.

However, it may be that a medical condition or disability make driving dangerous, and if this is the case, the DVLA will instruct you to stop driving until your condition improves, at which point you can reapply for your licence, provided your GP is happy that your condition has sufficiently improved.

Turning 70 doesn't mean you have to lose your independence - but it is important that you stay safe on the road, so if you have any worries about your ability, an assessment is well worthwhile.

Have you undergone a driving reassessment? What advice would you give to others turning 70? Leave your comments below...
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