‘Allow older drivers to escape prosecution for running red lights’

A scheme enabling older motorists to avoid prosecution for careless driving should be rolled out across the UK, according to Government-funded experts.

The Older Drivers Task Force said in a report that assessments of driving skills should be offered to all motorists aged 70 and above who are caught committing offences such as accidentally running a red light, unnecessarily slow driving, or poor motorway lane discipline.

Fitness to Drive evaluations are currently only made available by a handful of police forces, such as Hampshire Constabulary.

Drivers are assessed by specially qualified occupational therapists and driving instructors.

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 some cases, drivers are 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.

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.

“But any encouragement we can all be given to reassess our ability to drive safely should be welcomed, not just after an incident but throughout our driving lives.”

Other recommendations made by the task force include:

– Mandatory sight tests at licence renewals from the age of 70;
– A programme to make T junctions safer; and
– Research into the causes of pedal confusion.

The report stated that older drivers do not pose a “significant risk” to other road users but their “relative frailty” means they are over-represented in serious crashes.

Latest Department for Transport figures show there are 5.7 million people in Britain aged 70 and over with a full driving licence, including 489 who are at least 100.

Annual car driver fatalities among the 70-79 age group are forecast to surge by 40% over the next 20 years due to Britain’s ageing population.

The task force was led by the Road Safety Foundation (RSF), which published the report.

RSF executive director Dr Suzy Charman 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.”