Rise in centenarian drivers as RAC and AA say no need to give up your car too early

Olivia Rudgard

There has been a rise in centenarian drivers, figures show, as the RAC and AA say drivers need not give up their cars too early. 

The number of over-70s holding a driving licence has exceeded five million for the first time, new figures show.

Analysis of DVLA data reveals 265 Britons over the age of 100 hold a licence, up from 162 in November 2012, with four people aged 104 the oldest licensed drivers.

There has been a 15 per cent spike in centenarians with licences since October 2015.

Once people reach 70 they must declare whether or not they are fit to drive every three years, without having to take a driving or medical examination.

Concerns have been raised that some elderly people are continuing to drive when they are not fit to do so.

In particular some families who have been bereaved as a result of mistakes made by older drivers have called for a change in the law.

But motoring organisations resisted calls for older people to be re-tested in order to keep their license. 

There are concerns in particular that rural residents would become more isolated and be left unable to visit friends and go shopping if they could not access a car.

Luke Bosdet, a spokesman for the AA, said older people would regard retesting as akin to "a filter to try to force as many as possible off the road" which would "make it as difficult as possible for them to get to the doctor’s, hospital appointments, supermarkets, and the cinema".

"There is already a system in place to try identify people with medical reasons for being unfit to drive, not just old age," he added.

"Technology, which is usually associated with driverless cars, is already prolonging a safe driving career for elderly drivers: parking assist systems, autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

"And that’s before we look at the accident stats which show far lower risk among older drivers than younger ones."

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: "Calls are routinely made for more testing of older drivers but most tend to have very good safety records and recognise their own limitations.

Number of centenarians who have a driver's license

"However, with this huge demographic shift there will be challenges to maintaining safe mobility for all of us.

"Even where people are encouraged to hang up the keys for good in the interests of road safety, we must recognise the social and health problems that come with isolation."

Research suggests that drivers aged 60 or over are no more likely to be involved in crashes than other drivers, although rates do increase from age 80. Drivers in their sixties have less than half the crash rate of those in their twenties. 

Road safety charity Brake suggests that older drivers should visit their doctor at least once a year to check that they are fit to continue driving. 

Out of the four key challenges ministers set out as part of their industrial strategy in November, one focuses on mobility and another on the ageing society.

The proportion of the UK population aged 90 and over has grown more rapidly than most younger age groups in recent years.

There were around 14,900 people aged at least 100 in 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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