Almost 200 centenarians still drive legally on UK roads - but are they safe?

 

There are 191 people aged 100 or over who are still legally allowed to drive on UK roads, according to figures published today.

The RAC Foundation said the UK’s oldest licence-holder was an 107-year-old woman and also reported that the number of drivers over 70 had exceeded four million for the first time. The oldest man with a licence is 106.

The figures were issued as the research charity Rica published a guide for older motorists to help them decide whether they are still fit to drive. Studies in the US and Australia have found that while one in 10 elderly drivers should not be on the road, about a third give up driving too early.

In the UK, motorists have to declare whether or not they are fit to drive at the age of 70 and then every three years, but do not need to take a driving test or have a medical examination. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said all drivers should “regularly consider their fitness to drive”, but added that “matters come to a head when we reach 70”.

“In general, older drivers have an enviable safety record, but it is clear that faced with this critical yes-or-no decision, many motorists simply do not have a realistic view of their capabilities,” he said. “For those reliant on a car, giving up driving will have a huge impact on their ability to live an active life, so it is important that they get all the help and support to make the right decision at the right time.”

The RAC Foundation analysed data from the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency and found that 4,018,900 drivers aged 70 or over had a valid driving licence. In November last year, that figure was 3.9 million.

 The number will rise sharply over the next decades and the number of centenarians is expected to soar. In 2010, the Government predicted that 17 per cent of the UK population – about 10 million people – would live to be 100. The Rica guide, called Driving Safely for Life, gives advice on how to continue driving later in life, the law and alternatives forms of transport.

Les Hale of Gloucestershire, who turned 100 in July, told The Independent he was still a good driver and was impressed that 191 fellow centenarians were still able to drive. “That’s pretty good, isn’t it?” he said.

In March this year, the Association of British Insurers announced a new agreement to improve access to motor insurance “regardless of age”.

A Department for Transport spokesman stressed that drivers over 70 should “tell the DVLA about any conditions which might affect their driving”. He added: “Most older drivers are aware of their limitations and manage their driving accordingly.”

Case study: ‘A lot of people think I’m too  old to drive’

Centenarian Les Hale has been driving for 70 years and reckons he is still “pretty good” behind the wheel. The former coach driver, who turned 100 in July, accrued just two motoring convictions over all those years: a speeding offence about 30 years ago and another for obstructing the road.

“I enjoy driving… I’m pretty good,” he said. However Mr Hale, of Lydbrook, Gloucestershire, said he was “thinking about packing up now”.

“I think I’ve had enough [of driving]. Recently I haven’t been too well… I had to go into hospital and I wasn’t too fit. I’ve improved since,” he said.

The insurance premium for his two-door Ford Escort has also risen from “£100 and something” when he was about 90 to nearly £400.

Mr Hale said he got the impression that many thought he was too old to drive. “A lot of people do think that. When I was in hospital, one of the nurses said to me, ‘I think you ought to think about packing up driving’. I didn’t think much of that.”

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