It’s often commented how we are all living – and staying healthy – much longer than we used to and this is great news. However with the welcome improvements in life expectancy which we’re noticing more and more it’s worth spending a few moments considering the significance to driving of advancing age, and the potential consequences of failing to declare to DVLA a medical condition.
The trouble is that we don’t all know ourselves when we might have a relevant medical condition and thus need to inform DVLA; deterioration in driving abilities can be very gradual and thus not always easy to spot. It may not be a simple judgment call. However a failure to declare a condition can result in a potential fine of £1,000, loss of licence and independence, and it goes without saying a serious road traffic accident arising from the consequences of impaired ability can have any number of potential ramifications.
There is no maximum age at which you must stop driving and there will always be some very sprightly drivers who will still be capable of driving into their late 80s and 90s. Indeed there are nearly 200 drivers in the UK who are aged at least 100; it is an extraordinary, in many ways fantastic statistic, the like of which we have never seen until recently.
The only standard condition to comply with as you reach the age of 70 is that the driving licence becomes renewable every three years but with no obligatory test and no compulsory medical the basic obligation is to make a medical declaration as to one’s fitness to drive. However with age comes greater responsibility and, from the point of view of road traffic law, perhaps the key responsibility is the need to monitor and be aware of your fitness to drive at all stages of your driving career, and as someone now in their late 50s myself I am as conscious of this responsibility as the next person.
A failure to disclose a relevant medical condition may also have consequences for insurance cover at a time when it is needed most (although matters of policy terms and conditions will always be subject to the specific circumstances and the insurance company’s view of a particular case).
It isn’t all bad news though.
It remains a fact that older drivers are, statistically, less risky than younger drivers. According to the Association of British Insurers drivers over the age of 70 are half as likely to be involved in accidents as 18 to 20 year olds. Very few drivers over the age of 70 are involved in drink drive or single vehicle accidents.
With new drivers (who are, more often than not, young drivers) the courts are obliged to follow a very strict rule whereby, by virtue of the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995, the accumulation of 6 points within the first two years of motoring post acquisition of a full licence will mean the automatic revocation of a licence and the obligation to re-take the driving test in order to restore the previous entitlements. However with much older drivers potentially at liberty to drive even where their powers of concentration may be diminishing the possibility may be out there that legislators will be unable to resist the temptation to rebalance this system of checks and balances in the not too distant future.
This article is intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. Newnham & Jordan Solicitors cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article or any external articles it may refer or link to.
Michael McGhie has practised Road Traffic law for many years and regularly follows new developments in this legal area to ensure he can advise clients as effectively as possible.