As we age, our faculties diminish, yet we can still be in charge of 1500kg of machinery travelling at 70mph. The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has called on the government to implement some form of driving health check to ensure older motorists are still capable of controlling a car to a certain standard.
The IAM’s suggestion appears to target drivers aged 70 and over; there are currently more than four million of them, and this is set to rise to almost six million by 2032. A recent poll indicated that 42 percent of the population were worried about an elderly relative’s driving abilities, but only 58 percent of those individuals would do anything about it. The IAM has called for more information and support to be made available not only to elderly people, but also to their children.
A voluntary assessment system which could be run both online and on-road would be an impartial way of determining whether it’s time for an elderly driver to give up the keys (and therefore their perceived independence). IAM Chief Executive Simon Best said: “Talking to an elderly relative about their driving is a difficult conversation to have. Driving is associated with independence, so giving up the car keys can be a very stressful process. This is especially true for drivers with dementia as they often underestimate the impact of the condition on their driving skills.”
The IAM has also called for changes in road design to make it easier for older drivers to continue driving; no suggestions were listed. It also urged vehicle manufacturers to consider older drivers when designing vehicles, which is blatantly ridiculous as vehicle manufacturers design cars to be as safe as possible anyway because that’s one of the primary drivers behind vehicle choice. The technology is already available in car for them to almost drive autonomously, and this will trickle down through the range to the cheapest cars over the coming years. We already have radar- and camera-based braking and cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, electronic stability control and more; the very latest cars are extremely difficult to crash.
It might be easier and better for the population as a whole if the government mandated all new vehicles should be fitted with radar-based automatic braking systems, and lane departure warning systems by 2019 as this will improve the vehicle fleet overall. Also, fitness to drive is not something that immediately decays when you are 70. There are a great many people younger than that who have been hard on their bodies and have delayed reaction times and poor coordination. Should we really be testing everyone’s fitness to drive?