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Plea to boost drivers’ skills after surge in deaths of older road users

Ministers are being urged to focus on improving drivers’ skills as new figures show a surge in deaths among older road users.

Road safety charity IAM RoadSmart issued the plea in response to provisional Department for Transport (DfT) figures for Britain showing that 245 men aged 70 and over were killed in crashes during the year to the end of June.

That is a 13% increase on the previous 12 months.

The number of fatalities among women in the same age category was 142.

This represented a 2% year-on-year rise and was more than any other female age group in that period.

The rise in deaths of older road users bucks the overall trend, with total fatalities down 9% to 1,633.

Drivers are not subjected to mandatory tests after obtaining their licence, no matter how old they become.

Licences must be renewed every three years once the holder reaches 70, compared with every 10 years up to that point.

But motorists are required to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if their health deteriorates to the extent they are no longer fit to drive.

IAM RoadSmart director of policy and standards Nicholas Lyes described the number of deaths among older road users as “worrying”.

He said: “Many motorists will be able to drive safely well into old age, others will not – perhaps losing confidence behind the wheel or needing to hang up their keys for medical reasons.

“With older age can also come a slowdown in reaction times, and there are certain locations where quick decision-making can be impacted, such as high-speed junctions, high-speed roundabouts, and slip roads on to motorways and dual carriageways.

“For those medically fit to drive but wanting to refresh their driving skills, courses are available.

“It is this sort of skills-led approach to driving that should form part of the Government’s revised road safety strategy, which must be published as soon as possible.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “The UK’s roads are among the safest roads in the world, and we keep licensing standards up to date to make sure everyone can use our roads safely and with peace of mind.

“All drivers must meet vision standards for driving and are legally obliged to notify the DVLA if a medical condition could affect their fitness to drive, while over-70s must renew their licence every three years.”