/ Motoring

Drivers should be judged on their ability, not their age

Older driver at the wheel

There are now apparently over one million drivers over the age of 80 in the UK (and 122 of them are centenarians!). Good for them I say – as long as they’re still driving safely, what difference does their age make?

I have strong feelings that every driver should be judged on his or her merits. Certainly not by some statistical figure, plucked out of the air by greedy insurers as a reason for ripping people off – young or old, male or female.

My daughter’s boyfriend celebrated his 21st birthday last weekend, and he commented that it was no longer a major milestone, as he couldn’t see how it would change his life.

He can already vote for example, and unless he travels to some US states, it doesn’t make a difference to where he can purchase alcohol. It seemed to him that little would change from passing this special occasion.

Age and gender ‘isms’ still exist

I said I thought his car insurance may come down and he was pleased. He drives a low-powered Ford Fiesta and pays over £1,100 a year despite having passed his test more than three years ago and being accident- and claim-free in that time.

But if his premium does come down, it won’t be a reflection of his driving ability or even his experience, but simply of his age. I had to agree, though I don’t believe it is the way insurance should be approached.

Had he passed his test at the same tender age (shortly before his 18th birthday) but not driven in the intervening years, he would still be charged less now. But his experience wouldn’t be anything like what he’s accrued by paying through the nose for insurance and actually getting three years’ road craft under his belt.

From the outset, he has always paid more for insurance than any equally-inexperienced female driver of the same age. So this is not based on ability, but on the stats generated by others who’ve gone before him. In this case, his gender goes against him, rather than his age.

I thought age and gender discrimination were outlawed, but it seems insurance companies are exempt! You have to have insurance, so it seems pretty harsh that some drivers are penalised for the behaviour of others.

Let’s introduce three-year tests

I think insurers should ask every driver to take a competence-based test every three years, where an examiner can give them a recognised ‘insurance rating’, based on their actual ability. This would help at all ages – and would put an end to the nonsensical penalisation of individuals, not based on experience or ability, but based on population statistics.

Such a system would also help encourage drivers of all ages to maintain and develop their driving skills, and would be a useful means of keeping older drivers competent. To me it’s ridiculous that someone who took their test when they were 17 can go more than 50 years without having further instruction – and then they are simply required to get a doctor’s note to say they can carry on.

Isn’t it time for all drivers to be encouraged to develop their road craft throughout their whole driving career?


yes, but it varies depending on driver.

Personally, I believe I am improving, driving slower and always assume that someone will pull out on me.

My Dad on the other hand is gettting worse, much worse. Lane hogging, not indicating and just a general “I don’t give a damn” attitude that helps to clog up the roads. He has had 3 accidents in the last year and had none for the previous 10. Strange how the nearer you get to retirement, the more pre-occupied you are when driving.

A 3 year test would probably just be jumped on by the car lobby as another expense. I’m fine with it if it means getting some of the useless drivers off the road who cause no end of tailbacks for simply not using mandatory driving skills, plus lowered insurance premiums (yet I don’t pay too much as I have not had an accident for 7 years)

Herein reproduced what I said elsewhere in
Convo yesterday with addition.

A mate of mine in Sp writes as to hereunder. Personally
think a driving licence once issued shd NOT be unconditionally
AND w/out limit of time, older folks past a certain age shd or
ought to be retested every so often. Say from when they get
their free TV licence wd not be a bad idea and perhaps
exempt from a testing charge. One guy I know in his
early 80s drives a high performance sports car and his
reflexes inter alia can’t be very good having seen him
both drive and park AND on his own admission.

[“In Singapore anybody over the age of 65 has to be certified to be
fit to drive by a medical practitioner. Recertification is required
every 3 years thereafter.

It is a good policy as some people over the age of 65 (or even 60)
have so poor psychomotor skills that they are a hazard on the road for
themselves and other road users.”]

Young drivers undoubtedly lack experience but SOME older drivers are intolerant and hypercritical. I have no problem with re-testing of older drivers (including reaction times, visual perception and other factors known to deteriorat with age) but it would be useful to test the attitude of all drivers.

Sorry I object to re-testing based purely on age – I haven’t had an accident yet and driven over 60 years. I already have to apply for a renewal license every three years. I am tolerant and patient on the road though the excuses often posted here make me critical of attitudes especially when all statists state those betwen 16 and 25 cause most accidents and problems on the road,.

I have no objection insisting on re-tests for any driver with more than two crashes in three years – or two traffic offences in five years. Automatic retests for uninsured drivers etc etc etc – Let the punishment fit the crime – Bad drivers must be re-tested..Not just a £30 fine. Why should a proven safe driver be penalised simply due to age

Safety on the roads is not just about avoiding accidents. Driving in a considerate way that minimises the risk of others having accidents is also important. I know plenty of people who have an excellent driving record with regard to accidents, but their standard of driving varies a great deal.

There may be a good case for re-testing drivers with a poor record with respect to accidents or motoring offences, but that will not pick up intolerant and impatient drivers.

A driving test may identify poor driving skills but we may have to devise a way of identifying those drivers who frequently drive poorly but would put on a good show with a driving examiner in the passenger seat.

Sadly Wavechange I agree

A test only tests competence not attitude unless the person tested is a complete idiot.

More CCTV scrutiny with ANPR could show poor driving action indicating “instant” intolerance and impatience but again not general attitude. . In fact this is why so many 16 to 25 drivers have and cause crashes – basically because boy (and girl) racers want to race We really need far more traffic police.as they cause drivers to drive more carefully. I know as a youngster I used to go very fast on the open road (but there was no speed limit) never in town.

We also need far more sleeping policemen to physically restrict speed in cities. I really don’t know too many people with accident free records but are poor drivers – but I know plenty who have poor driving records who are also poor drivers – My brother is one. I would not be a passenger in his car and he has had plenty of crashes (he is one of the reasons I have always driven carefully)

But I certainly reject the idea that drivers must be automatically retested just because they reach a certain age especially if they have a very clean driving record with no traffic offences.. I wouldn’t object if ALL drivers were tested every two years.

CCTV with ANPR is what I had in mind. It would be good to see some pilot schemes in operation.


Please don’t use the word ‘idiot’ every time a motoring topic is up for discussion. It just debases the value of comments, at least in my mind.


Sorry, my comment was intended to be more positive. I certainly do value your comments but feel that they are sometimes too strong.


Do you prefer intellectually challenged? Frankly I have seen so many inconsiderate – irresponsible – incompetent – downright dangerous drivers on my daily drives over the years that I can’t find a more appropriate description

It may help you understand where I’m coming from if I point out that I have lost friends through fatal crashes (two self inflicted) – my brother and father both nearly died (spent weeks in hospital) twenty years apart from very similar incidents through incompetent car drivers

But most importantly – I am an experienced and qualified first aider (First Aider for a 2000 strong college – a 1500 strong school – taught Ambulance badge in the scouts – First Aider for an official scout camp etc) So I have always carried a comprehensive first aid kit with me for emergencies. Before the advent of mobile phones obtaining emergency help could be very slow and difficult – so I always stopped for those emergencies in the hope to save lives before the emergency services arrived – In one case in very thick fog (I was travelling at 20 mph) a motorist passed me at about 50 – a mile up the road I came across his car that had driven into scaffolding piercing his body (it was lit by oil lamps and signposted) I tried to stem blood and keep him alive – got another driver to get the services – It took over half hour – I watched him die – not pretty at all.- the image is still with me. On another occasion my friends and I were walking back to camp – came across a man lying in the road – he was mumbling and twitching pouring blood – we managed to find out from him he had been hit and run over by a hit and run car driver – we treated him as best we could he had several broken bones – he died later that night in hospital – the driver was never caught. They are the worst instances – but I’ve almost lost count on the number of seriously injured and injured road users I’ve helped over the years. with my first aid kit. – The images stay with me – and it is the reasons why so many police who also have to treat injuries also consider many motorists less than “perfect” and use similar language to describe them.

I still stop for crashes – as a few minutes delay in treatment can kill. I’m sorry I feel very strongly about bad driving. Those incidences made me a more considerate driver.- maybe all drivers should be required to attend crashes with the police and ambulances. It would bring home how serious the problem is.

Very sorry to hear this, Richard. I now understand why you feel so strongly.

Wavechange –

Thanks for your understanding.

May I relate my last bad experience with long term consequences – In the 1960s I had a young (21) assistant scout leader who had just bought a car after passing the Test – He was a bit of a show off in several fields.

He took a 13 yo boy (who was the son of very good friend’s of ours) to the shops – on the way back .He drove far too fast around a small roundabout – and the car rolled over onto the boy’s arm and hand (which was out of the window) crushing it overwhelmingly – The hand and arm were severely mutilated – and stopped growing. the growing ends of the bones were severely damaged The boy underwent a number of very painful operations simply to maintain the arm and hand size – (it no longer worked) This went on for 7 years until the right hand and arm stopped growing . As the parents were friends I visited the boy in hospital and home regularly over the years watching the injury handicap the boy severely. This went on for many years – The “boy” is now 63 and still can’t use the hand or arm. What a punishment inflicted by an inattentive driver!

Too few people think of the consequences.

On the whole I agreed with much of the sentiment shown in this article, with the exception of the three year test nonsense.
I agree it should all be about ability rather than statistics related to age or gender but how do you establish ability, real ability that is?
And are we talking about the ability to pass a test or the ability to drive safely everyday. I don’t think they are the same thing.
The younger driver will have recently passed a test, and a much more demanding test nowadays too, but is considered a high risk because so many accidents involve younger drivers.
The older driver will have been driving for years and in many cases would fail a modern test but older drivers are involved in fewer accidents and are considered as a lower risk. Of course in that comparison I’m excluding drivers of much greater age who might be less able through any loss of physical ability.

So what is the answer?

I’d suggest the facility for younger drivers to take on more training to prove competence and get insurance discounts based on this new evidence of their ability to drive safely. Yes that still only tests the ability to pass tests but youngsters are more receptive to training and I’d suggest more good practices will rub off on them.
At the other end of the spectrum very old drivers perhaps should take periodic medicals to ensure eyesight and reactions at least reach an acceptable standard.

But apart from making driving instructors, diving examiners and the treasury plenty of money I don’t think three year tests for all will really change much, because that test will show ability to follow the rules of the road and actually control the vehicle. Whereas saftey is really all about everyday attitude.

Francis says:
25 February 2012

I am within a couple of months of being 85. I do realise that one’s reactions and probably all round perception is less as you get old, on the other hand you drive with with the knowledge that this is so. I would have no objection to regular testing having known folk in the past who were really no longer safe on the road.
The IAM test over nearly 2 hours is a good test of attitiude as well as actual ability and it would be good for older people to take their retest at regular intervals to make sure that they are safe. For me however, as a full time carer, this would be a problem because of the difficulty of getting out of the house to actually do it.

Finnish driver says:
26 February 2012

I entirely agree. But then I would, wouldn’t I, because I am 82 and still very much driving. However, in Finland, where I live, people over the age of 70 have to renew their driving licence every five years. For that, you have not only to have a doctor’s certificate (which includes sight and hearing tests) but the doctor also gives you a short form of dementia test. There is also a self-test brochure you should read before the test. This asks a lot of probing questions,such as “Do you find difficulty in turning across oncoming traffic?” Many are to do with memory, such as “If you are driving along a familiar road, do you sometimes forget where you are or where to turn?” I have never heard anybody complain of these tests, which seem eminently sensible to me. I have known people in the UK who drove despite having cataract, hearing problems and memory problems (sometimes all three). I find in fact that it is very heartening to have some sort of proof that I am still competent to drive. However, I have asked my children to tell me if and when I should stop driving, even if I pass the tests. Much as I would hate to give up driving, I do not want to be a danger to anyone.
So much for the elderly. As for the young, the statistics in Finland show that the most likely person to have an accident is a young man under the age of 28 (I think). There is no other test until you are 70. It would seem common sense to have a retest from time to time, even if it were only every 20 years. Roads, traffic, cars, one’s health, etc all change. I think, too, that everyone who has been involved in a road accident where they were at fault or in a traffic offence of a more serious kind than e.g. a parking offence should be required to take a driving test again. Perhaps just the knowledge that you would have to would help to prevent accidents too.

Hate to point out that Finland has a higher accident rate than the UK according to statistics – so honestly it appears our system may be somewhat better – or UK drivers in general are better.

I still cannot agree with a test for the elderly just because they are elderly when the 16 to 24 male driver is far more likely to have a crash. If a regular retest was for everyone I wouldn’t object.

If the accident prone and traffic violators had a re-test every say three years (though I would prefer it more often) it would ensure that the young who are more likely to be in crashes would be monitored and lazy tendencies pointed out and criticised I know a lot of drivers who became very careless and laid back with a consequential deterioration in driving skill and increase in crashes after driving a couple of years.