Prince Philip car crash prompts spike in older motorists giving up licences

Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 11:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 11:42 am

Prince Philip’s car crash last year and his subsequent decision to surrender his licence appears to have prompted a surge in older drivers giving up driving.

The Duke of Edinburgh was involved in a collision near the Sandringham Estate in January 2019 when he was 97 years old.

After the smash between his Land Freelander and a Kia, the Prince decided to voluntarily give up his driving licence. Now new figures released by the DVLA show that in the wake of the crash there was a significant jump in the number of drivers following suit.

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Figures provided by the licensing body to retirement mortgage experts Responsible Life reveal a 21.2 per cent jump in the number of drivers aged 90 and over voluntarily surrendering their licences last year — rising from 6,612 to 8,014. In 2018 the increase was just 9.7 per cent.

Among those the same age as the Prince, the increase was sharper - at 39.4 per cent. Among the tiny number of centenarians who still hold a licence there was a 146 per cent increase in the number giving up driving for good, with 32 surrendering their licences.

No age limit

There is no age limit on holding a driving licence but drivers must be able to read a licence plate from 20 metres away and not have any medical issues which could impair their ability to drive.

There have been calls for more stringent compulsory eye tests for drivers as well as some suggestions that the over-70s should have to resit their test to prove they are still fit to drive. At the moment, drivers can voluntarily seek out independent assessment from driving schools or organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents but are not obliged to.

Steve Wilkie, executive chairman of Responsible Life, said: “When to stop driving remains one of our most difficult decisions in later life. For many retired motorists it means letting go of a symbol of their independence, even if they only make the occasional trip to the local shops.

“Older age is also cruel and creeps up on you, making it impossible to judge the best time to hang up the steering wheel and get a taxi, rather than soldier on for another year.

“Prince Philip’s misfortunes, however, seem to have jogged a great number of people into confronting this difficult decision head on.”

Source of independence

Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driving School said that rather than enforcing more mandatory testing, which could put older motorists off continuing to drive, they should be encouraged to take regular refresher courses.

He said: “When it comes to older drivers, eyesight can be a cause for concern, so we would encourage them to undergo regular eye tests. However any number of factors can affect competency on the road – not just eyesight.

“A driving licence can be an invaluable source of independence and mobility, particularly for those over the age of 70. So rather than discouraging older people from holding a licence or implementing restrictions and mandatory retesting, we encourage voluntary assessments.

“Refresher lessons should be the norm, not the exception, for drivers of all ages. Road safety is not a static issue; it’s constantly evolving as conditions change and it’s vital that motorists feel completely comfortable and confident behind the wheel.

“Rather than taking away the independence of older drivers, RED urges people to encourage their relatives and friends to undergo voluntary refresher courses to keep safety the number one priority on our roads.”