Is there a legal upper age limit for driving in the UK?

Is there a legal upper age limit for driving in the UK?
Is there a legal upper age limit for driving in the UK?

Learning to drive after your 17th birthday rolls around is an exciting milestone in life – but is there an age where it’s time to give up getting behind the wheel?

On Thursday (17 Jan), The Duke of Edinburgh, aged 97, was involved in a two-vehicle crash close to the Sandringham Estate. While no-one was injured, the incident did spark the question as to whether anyone should still be driving in their later years.

Is there an upper age driving limit?

In the UK, your driving licence expires once you reach the age of 70, although there is no law that states you must give up driving or retake your test.

Instead, you must renew your licence if you want to carry on driving, and this must be repeated every three years.

You must also meet the minimum eyesight requirement to qualify for renewal, and could be prosecuted if get behind the wheel without meeting the standards of vision for driving.

According to GOV.UK, you must:

  • be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres away
  • be able to meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary)

You must also tell DVLA if you have any problems with your eyesight, or a notifiable medical condition or disability that could impair your ability to drive safely.

This could include:

  • diabetes or taking insulin
  • syncope (fainting)
  • heart conditions (including atrial fibrillation and pacemakers)
  • sleep apnoea
  • epilepsy
  • strokes
  • glaucoma

However, if your driving licence expires and you fail to renew, then legally you are not allowed to drive.

Should driving tests be compulsory for older drivers?

While there may have been calls for older drivers to undertake a compulsory driving test once they reach a certain age, data compiled by road safety charity IAM RoadSmart shows that elderly motorists are only involved in around four per cent of injury crashes.

Elderly motorists are only involved in around 4 per cent of injury crashes, according to data from IAM RoadSmart (Photo: Shutterstock)
Elderly motorists are only involved in around four per cent of injury crashes, according to data from IAM RoadSmart (Photo: Shutterstock)

By contrast, drivers in their teens and 20s are involved in 34 per cent of injury crashes, indicating older motorists are actually much safer on the roads.

The impressive safety record of elderly drivers could be explained by self-regulation, as many change their driving pattern to avoid driving in bad weather, at night or during peak traffic periods.

A survey by the AA found that more than 50 per cent of drivers over the age of 75 admitted they were more cautious, and avoided heavy traffic and long commutes more than they did when they were 50.

But should a second driving test later in life be made compulsory?

Tom Flack, editor-in-chief, at MoneySuperMarket advised, “It’s not illegal to drive when you’re in your 90s, but ultimately it comes down to the individual, along with their nearest and dearest, to establish whether they should be on the road.

“Some older drivers are as capable and as safe as anyone on the road.

“After a lifetime of driving, forcing them to stop can be a major confidence hit and speed their decline. Additionally, in many rural areas with little or no public transport, having a car can be a lifeline.

“There are cases where insurers see older drivers stopping driving after an accident or claim.

“They may have only suffered a small prang, denting their car while parking, or nudging out at a junction too soon, or late, but they lose confidence and it makes them decide to stop.

“This tallies with evidence showing older drivers have fewer high speed crashes or situations where loss of control was a factor.”

Car loans: What the FCA's changes to loans and financing deals mean for drivers

New rules could mean better advice when it comes to borrowing money to buy a vehicle

Why you get condensation on the inside of car windows – and how you can stop it

How to quickly solve visibility problems

How to drive safely in heavy rain and floods

Advice on coping with adverse conditions on the roads