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The majority of these are between 70 and 79, but a staggering 100,000 are over 90.
But tragedies such as Neil Colquhoun’s death always ignite debate over whether this is enough — as do the more minor but frightening incidents that occur so often on our roads.Currently, drivers must renew their licence just before their 70th birthday if they intend to stay behind the wheel.There is no requirement for a retest of their driving skills, an eye test or a medical unless they have declared a condition which the DVLA might require to test further.Luckily, I wasn’t hurt — but the outcome could have been very different.According to DVLA figures, there are 4.9 million licence-holders over the age of 70.But while the UK has one of the more relaxed licence renewal systems in Europe, it also has one of the lowest fatality rates for older drivers.
Dr Charles Musselwhite, Associate Professor in Gerontology at Swansea University, says: ‘The evidence from countries that have stricter tests — whether that is cognitive tests, medical tests or on-road driving tests — show no difference in older driver collision rates compared to countries that have more relaxed licensing.‘Denmark introduced age-based cognitive screening for over-70s but has since withdrawn it as they found no change in collision rate, but an increase in deaths and serious injuries in pedestrians over 70, as they got out of their cars and walked more.‘There is a little evidence that a more stringent eyesight test makes a slight difference to collision rates, either because it enables older drivers to get their vision corrected, or because it means some older people with really bad eyesight have their licence revoked.’Sergeant Rob Heard was the senior investigating officer in Neil Colquhoun’s accident and set up the Older Drivers Forum to reduce the number of accidents among this age group.‘Our aim is to help people to carry on driving safer for longer, but also give them advice as to when it is time to retire from driving,’ he says.
Despite having failed an eye test just 24 hours earlier, retired GP Turner Waddell was still behind the wheel. He was on his way home from work and overtaking a slow-moving vehicle on the A30 in Hampshire when he was confronted by Waddell’s Volvo travelling the wrong way down the dual carriageway.
Neil’s mother Pat hasn’t cooked a roast since that day six years ago. Another driver who was also overtaking managed to squeeze back into the inside lane, but Neil had nowhere to go. Drivers at the scene dragged Waddell and his wife from their vehicle, but Neil’s doors jammed and his car caught fire. The day before the accident, Waddell had failed a hospital eye test.
He had no sight in one eye and was below the legal limit in the other.
The consultant didn’t tell Waddell not to drive because he simply didn’t believe it was possible for Waddell to be driving. His family knew that, too, and they didn’t do anything about it.
Pat, from Hartley Wintney in Hampshire, is understandably angry. It’s unforgivable.‘Neil has been robbed of his future. He paid the ultimate price for another family’s complacency.’Waddell, who lives near Bridgend, South Wales, admitted causing death by careless driving and received a nine-month suspended sentence.