Driving Over 70 (And Beyond) – Everything You Need To Know
At what age do you have to stop driving? Well, there isn’t actually an age limit – 670,000 people aged between 70 – 90 in the UK still have an active driving licence, as do 160 people aged 100*. We understand that you may be worried about your parent being an older driver, so we’ve compiled this article to understand everything you need to know about driving over 70.
Driving over 70 and beyond can be a contentious topic to pick up with your elderly parents. Driving is a real signal of independence to them, but it’s also important that they are safe on the roads (for themselves and others).
So to answer all our questions we’ve spoken with Steve Dent. He’s an experienced assessor at a mobility centre and a trustee at Driving Mobility, a network of mobility centres which carries out clinical and functional assessments in regards to medical fitness to drive and adaptations for vehicles.
- Over 70 Driving Licence
- Over 70s Driving Licence Renewal
- DVLA Medical Conditions
- Signs To Stop Driving
- Talking To Elderly Parents About Driving
- Older Driver Assessment
- How Does A Driving Assessment Work?
- Can People With Dementia Drive?
- Is Car Insurance More Expensive For Older Drivers?
- Is Power Of Attorney Responsible For A Car Accident?
- What If My Parent Refuses To Stop Driving?
Over 70 Driving Licence
Turning 70 is a real marker in the driving world as our driving licence automatically expires the day before our 70th birthday (if you turn any DVLA driving licence over, you’ll see the date on the back). Don’t assume your parent will get a letter notifying them of this – it’s always good to be on the front foot.
Your parent can of course still drive after this (and other) milestone birthday, but you have to apply for a new licence.
Over 70s Driving Licence Renewal
This can be done for free either online (via gov.uk – watch out for other websites that will apply on your behalf as there will be service fees to pay) or with a D1 form from the post office. All your parent will need is their UK passport, current licence and NI number.
Once you turn 70, the driving licence needs to be renewed every three years. However if your parent has a medical condition (such as a dementia diagnosis or Parkinson’s disease), this may be reduced to one or two years so DVLA doctors can check medical records more frequently.
DVLA Medical Conditions
Regardless of age, all drivers are obliged to report any disability or medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive. Some of the medical conditions include:
- Dementia (more on dementia and driving later)
- Diabetes (if it’s insulin-treated)
- A chronic neurological condition (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease)
- Any condition that affects both eyes, or total loss of sight in one eye
It’s the driver’s responsibility to inform the DVLA of notifiable conditions (there could be a fine of up to £1000 if you don’t).
Other health related issues that could impact our parents’ driving and be a cause for concern are:
- Their medication – is it making them drowsy? Is it worth reviewing this with them and their GP to see if it’s all needed?
- Hearing – how alert are they to sounds on the road?
- Mobility problems – if they’re not as mobile, or in pain, this can affect how in control they are of the car. Can they grip the steering wheel as well or put on the handbrake for example?
Signs To Stop Driving
As we get older, our driving ability is affected by declining visual, cognitive and motor function. I remember my grandpa driving me when he was in his late 80s, and making to turn a corner too early as his spatial awareness was off. Luckily we stopped him, and he chose to give up his licence soon after.
As your loved one gets older, it’s likely they will start to self-regulate their driving – they might stick to local routes or not drive at night.
Signs they might need to get their driving assessed are:
- Their car is getting more small bumps and scrapes than before. This doesn’t need to be anything major, but it can all add up.
- There are incidents where they get lost or lose their confidence on the road.
- They might start saying that other drivers are acting crazy, beeping or over-taking them.
Talking To Elderly Parents About Driving
So you’ve noticed signs that your parent may need to stop driving. How do you talk to them about this?
It’s not the easiest conversation to have – lots of people understandably think they will always be able to drive. Don’t spring the talk on them, instead let them know what you want to discuss and why, and find a time that works for them.
Be open and honest but also try to take a softly-softly approach – imagine if someone just came right out and said you should stop.
- Start the conversation by asking them open-ended questions like ‘how are you finding driving nowadays?’. If they reply with any doubt, ask if they think they’re coming to the end of their driving career.
- Show what support you can give to them or that’s available in the community so they won’t feel stranded without a car.
- Focus on benefits of not driving. If their mileage is limited, talk about the cost saving of not running a car. Some of this could go towards taxis for example.
- You may not get all the answers you think, or they may react badly. If so, leave it for another day.
- When picking up again, suggest that they go for a driving assessment – that way, it removes the decision from the family and stops any tension emerging.
Older Driver Assessment
Your parent should take a driving assessment if you or they or feel they should get their driving assessed.
It’s also possible for the GP or DVLA to refer your loved one for an assessment.
This isn’t an ‘elderly driving test’ – we all pick up bad driving habits over the years but they don’t mean we’re bad drivers. Instead of looking at driving test criteria, the assessor is wanting to see how safe they are on the roads. For instance, how well they control the car, what their reactions are like and if they interact safely with other road users.
And don’t assume your parent will be unsuccessful – more people are successful than unsuccessful, with the assessor looking for solutions to help your parent stay on the road (e.g. adaptations if say limb weakness from a stroke is impacting vehicle control).
There are a number of driving assessment centres across the country, all accredited by national charity Driving Mobility. It’s the same assessment whichever centre you go to.
How Does A Driving Assessment Work?
Going to a driving assessment can be nerve wracking for your parent, so knowing the process could help them feel calmer. Here’s what to expect for a Driving Mobility assessment.
First things first, they can bring along a family member or carer for support. They’ll be met with an instructor (there to assess overall driving standard) and an occupational therapist (looking for anything related to a medical condition).
It starts with an interview – the questions focus on the individual’s needs and concerns around driving, as well as their medical history. They’ll be asked when they last had their eyes tested, any limb weakness or limitation etc.
Then it’s time to go out in their car. There’s a number plate test (reading it from 20m) before driving for about 45 minutes with the instructor (in the front passenger seat) and OT (in the back).
At the end of this, they will collectively feed back to your parent so they’ll know if they have been successful or not. Your parent will also receive a written report as a follow-up.
When solutions aren’t possible and if there’s significant concern for your loved one’s or others’ safety, this is when they need to stop driving.
Being considered unsafe to continue driving can be distressing – it’s a real signal they’re getting older and they may worry about becoming isolated. The assessor will start the conversation about alternative ways for them to stay engaged and avoid isolation, but this isn’t a one-off discussion.
Driving Assessment Fee
For a self-referral, a driving assessment starts at around £50. It can often be subsidised or free if an NHS professional refers your parent, or if the DVLA asks for an assessment. According to Driving Mobility, the highest number of referrals are from the DVLA, followed by the NHS and Motability.
To arrange a driving assessment, the easiest thing to do is visit Driving Mobility’s ‘Find A Centre’ page. Enter the postcode to find the nearest centre for your mum or dad. Or you can call 0800 559 3636.
Can People With Dementia Drive?
Dementia is a progressive condition, so driving with dementia (at least in the early stages) is possible – it’s not an immediate barrier to driving.
If your parent has dementia, it’s important to notify the DVLA. The medical team there will decide if your parent needs to stop driving, or refer them for an assessment. Someone living with dementia and still driving will need to renew their driving licence annually.
Is Car Insurance More Expensive For Older Drivers?
The cost of insurance doesn’t automatically increase based on age – it’s risk that makes insurance go up.
But, statistically our risk does go up as we age which is why insurance premiums can be more expensive for the elderly. If your mum and dad is still driving, they need to insure their car annually and answer all questions truthfully.
Is Power Of Attorney Responsible For A Car Accident?
There are two types of power of attorney (POA), but neither would make you responsible if your parent had a car accident. Health and welfare POA only comes into effect if your parent loses capacity – you would have updated DVLA about this before then, so they would have given up their driving licence.
What If My Parent Refuses To Stop Driving?
This can be tricky – you might want to take control of the car keys or take the car for its MOT and see if it would pass or fail. If they failed their assessment but refuse to stop, then speak with your parent’s GP in confidence.
Driving over 70 and beyond can be challenging for the wider family – you may not see things the same way as your parent, so it could be an idea to get a driving assessment. If your parent wants to keep driving, then we hope we’ve answered any questions you may have.
There’s no driving curfew at any age however older drivers may choose to regulate their car use – not driving at night or sticking to familiar routes.
Older drivers can take a driving assessment (they can choose to take one or be referred by their doctor). A driving assessment isn’t a driving test – the assessor is wanting to see how well they control the car, what their reaction are like and if they interact safely with other road users.
Yes, the driving licence automatically expires the day before you turn 70. It’s easy to renew for free online or with a D1 form from the post office. Then, it needs to be renewed between every one to three years, depending on medical circumstances.
You can continue to drive for the category(s) on your licence so long as you remain medically fit to do so. If you have a medical condition, there are different rules for different types of vehicles (e.g. different for a car vs a coach) so check with the DVLA.
*Department for Transport, 2019