Too old to drive? Pensioners say they would give up their cars rather than face a retest

Thousands would rather lose their mobility rather than risk ‘humiliation’ of failure

Older drivers would rather give up driving altogether rather than undergo a new driving test, it’s been reported.

A significant proportion of pensioners – many of whom have been driving safely for decades – say they would sell their cars instead of risking the humiliation of failing a compulsory driving test triggered by their age, a national car leasing company has found.

There’s no need to take a test at the age of 70 just yet, but it’s a prospect that worries older motorists who find the fact that the idea is even being discussed an insult to their skills, the Flexed.co.uk company says.

“While there’s no legal age to stop driving, all licence holders need to re-apply at the age of seventy,” Flexed.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall says, “and drivers tell us that’s stressful enough as it is without having to take another test.”

At the moment, drivers must renew their licence every three years from the age of 70, proving that they meet the minimum eyesight requirement and that they have no physical restriction that prevents them from driving safely. However, there’s have been recent calls to add a driving test element into the renewal process, and that’s what’s worrying perfectly good older drivers, Flexed.co.uk says.

The company spoke to over 1500 older drivers, and their opinion on the matter was overwhelming:

  • 81% said they would give up their licence if they were required to sit a driving test every three years
  • 62% said that being forced to take a driving test would be an ‘insult’
  • 57% said that they feared losing their independent mobility if regulations were tightened
  • 96% objected to having to pay for a driving test if the regulations were changed

Geoff, who runs a handyman business despite being aged 72, said: “I’d be insulted if I had to sit another driving test. If anything, I’m a better driver than most younger people!”

Patricia, 69, told Flexed.co.uk: “I can see where they’re coming from, but my eyesight’s good, and I’ve never had an accident. I’d rather give it up and take the bus if I had to do the test again.”

Hussain, aged 66, had already thought about the issue: “Your new licence at 70 is free, right? Is it still going to be free if you had to pass a driving test? I don’t think so.”

Janice (who declined to give her age) said: “It’s just a way of scaring us off the roads, and it will probably work. It’s a humiliation for pensioners.”

Flexed.co.uk says Hussain and Janice made valuable points in addressing the cost of the process. While renewing your driving licence at seventy is free at the moment, would OAPs be asked to foot the cost of a retest – currently a combined £87 for the theory and practical components? Hall says the cost alone would convince many to surrender their licences.

“While it’s all about road safety, it’s usually been down to the driver and their families to judge the right time to get out from behind the wheel,” says Hall. “The last thing many people want is to be forced to do it by officialdom. It’s an insult to their dignity.”

Failing eyesight and slower reaction times are often a good indicator that motoring has become too much for some people, which is why the three-yearly cycle of licence renewal exists.

It’s a sensitive topic for many, as it can be seen as the ultimate indication that they are ‘over the hill’, but there’s help at hand .The Institute of Advanced Motorists offers a 60 minute assessment which helps drivers make the decision, Flexed says, and it’s something that all older drivers should consider if they doubt their driving skills.

“In the end, driving tests for over-70s might be a cash-raiser for the government,” says Hall, “But it will also be a vote loser.

“Forcing thousands to lose their independence will prove very unpopular.”