With the news that by 2021, three million drivers on our roads will be over 70 years old, it seems the DVLA is to introduce a ten year ‘refresh’ exam testing the eyesight and reaction times of older drivers to prove that they’re safe behind the wheel of a car.
It’s about time. Only a few years ago in Tunbridge Wells, a driver in his eighties confused his brake and his accelerator, ploughing his vehicle across Mount Pleasant during a busy lunchtime. It was a miracle that there wasn’t carnage and fatality.
I never understood the rules anyway. As a private pilot, I took seven written exams and two practicals – navigation and my General Flight Test. If I want to fly in cloud, it’s another test. Fly after dark? Another test. And I have to revalidate with an examiner every twenty four months, and take a full medical each time. And if I want to move up to something more powerful – twin props perhaps, or a jet – I must cross train and pass another test.
Yet if I can afford it, I can sell my little Mini and jump behind the wheel of the fastest Lamborghini supercar with just a quick call to my insurers. Why not different tests for different power ratings? In these recessionary times, the big powerful cars are plummeting in price, becoming more affordable every day.
With academic research suggesting that drivers over 65 are three times more likely to be killed or seriously injured than those between 40 and 65, it’s right to re-examine the rules. And I’m sure our safety-conscious older drivers would be the first to agree.