Driver Confidence & Competence

The information given here is for both older drivers and relatives / friends of drivers where there is need to consider or establish the level of confidence and competency to continue to hold a driving licence and be safe for themselves and others; it is important to get impartial advice from suitably qualified and experienced sources and we trust the information given here with help with this.

Driving a vehicle at any age is huge under recognised and admitted responsibility at any age, but none more so than in older age; it is about the safety of all, the driver, passengers and other road users including pedestrians. The process of holding a driving licence from age 70 onwards is largely one of self-regulation relying on the licence applicant accurately and honestly completing an application including medical questionnaire at three yearly intervals and the proviso that any adverse medical changes other than temporary ones are notified immediately to the DVLA.

Diver confidence and competence divides into two main categories (a) drivers who have perhaps held a licence for a long time but have actually rarely driven, then by change of fortune find they need to drive regularly again and thereby need to regain skills, update knowledge to feel competent and safe (b) are the drivers who succumb to age related and medical conditions whom themselves may not acknowledge their competency and safety is in question whereas family and friends might.

In older age the natural age process is a fact of life for all as well as very many medical conditions which collectively affect very many ‘seniors’; these factors often present in ways which are completely opposite of the needs for safe driving – good concentration, quick reactions, ease, fullness and agility of movement, co-ordination, observation / hazard perception, Highway Code knowledge and ability to manage controls.

Unlike most other skill sets in life, once a driving licence is obtained there is no required assessment process or skills / knowledge update process unless falling foul of the law or exceptional medical events. This document offers some guidance and advice around older driving, how to check competency and get help where required or ultimately to decide when the time inevitably comes to let somebody else do the driving; maintaining quality of life and getting out and about thereafter is covered separately.

Older drivers can do a lot themselves to help preserve their driving ability and safety. Healthy lifestyle including exercise routines which focus on co-ordination, concentration and balance are particularly helpful as are cognitive skills. Updating Highway Code knowledge from time to time is essential for modern day driving. A driving assessment by a recognised organisation (details listed separately) can be invaluable – it is very difficult to impartially judge oneself and equally for others (family friends) to judge. Our recommendations are:-

Still Safe to Drive

A charity offshoot of GEM Motoring Assist presents a series of short videos covering every aspect of senior driving including discussions around he time to consider giving up, older driver assessments, and making driving easier.

Another well established group offering comprehensive information including the legal aspects, driver assessments, keeping driving into older age, the time to consider retiring from driving, having the right car and lastly the part families can and need to play.

It should also be noted that many local driving schools will offer lessons around refreshing driving skills. From time to time Councils and other Road Safety Charities will run initiatives which will be advertised locally.

Part of RoSPA provide senior driver assessments in your car in your local area. On their web site under the heading ‘drivers’ and sub heading ‘driving assessments’ full information will be found covering driving assessments for older drivers’.

If medical conditions are a concern please refer to SE Driveability. It should be stressed these are ‘assessments’ offering help and advice without criticism and not tests with a pass or fail result, however for those who would like a challenge advanced driving tests are available with the help of volunteer tutors.

Part of the IAM, Institute of Advanced Motorist’s, whom again provide senior driver assessments on the same basis as ROADAR.

Click on links ‘courses’, then ‘car / commercial’, then ‘mature driver review’ to see full details.

South East DriveAbility are an Aylesford, Kent based charity funded by the NHS providing practical comprehensive driving assessment including cognitive and medical / mobility aspects as well as practical driving. They can also advise on car ‘adaptions’ and car choice for disabled drivers and passengers.

Drivers may be referred to SE Driveability by other agencies if there are concerns about driving ability – the terms of referral will be explained in detail. People / drivers may also self-refer with details on request.

Testing is carried out either at Aylesford or other satellite centres throughout Kent and a dual controlled car of a similar type, size will be provided to what the driver is used to will be provided for the practical driving. Telephone 0300 0134 886.

Other Useful Information

Senior Road Safety – Kent Focus Group, our comprehensive ‘one stop’ for all general information regarding ‘senior road safety’.

Includes useful fact sheets and details and links to other relevant organisations.

Older Drivers’ Forum

An excellent website by a well established older drivers charity which comprehensively covers all aspect of senior driving.