Half of motorists want to raise minimum driving age and one in 10 want over-70s banned

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 9:38 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 9:38 am

Almost half of UK motorists believe that the minimum driving age should be increased from its current 17 while 10 per cent say there should also be a legal maximum age for drivers.

Around one in four (23 per cent) agree that the minimum age for licence holders should be increased to 18 while one in five (21) per cent think it should be raised to 21.

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Young drivers (aged 17-25) are more likely to be involved in a crash than those in any other age group. They represent 20 per cent of all road injuries and deaths but account for just seven per cent of drivers, with a combination of inexperience and overconfidence is thought to be behind the worrying anomaly.

MPs are already considering ways to address the issue, including making black box tracking devices mandatory for new drivers and introducing a graduated licence, but a poll by Uswitch found that many people also wanted to see fewer young drivers on the roads.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Unsurprisingly, older drivers were most likely to back raising the driving age, with 46 per cent of those over 35 in support of a minimum driving age of 21 compared with just 10 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds.

However, drivers over 35 were also more likely to support tougher measures to regulate older motorists. Those over 55 were most strongly in favour of options such as mandatory health checks and regular retesting for motorists over the age of 70.

At the moment, drivers over 70 have to renew their licence every three years but can self declare that they don’t have any medical condition that could impair their driving. However, 39 per cent of people think they should be legally obliged to undergo a medical check before renewing their licence.

One five also thinks that drivers over 70 should have to resit their theory driving test to ensure they are up to speed with current legislation and can still quickly and correctly identify hazards. But one in 10 thinks that over-70s should simply be stopped from driving at all.

Concerns around older drivers often centre on observation skills and reaction times but research by Swansea University found that the over-70s are no more likely to be involved in an accident than other age groups.

Education not discrimination

Driving instructors have warned that banning certain age groups from the road will not address core safety issues and could leave more people feeling isolated and struggling to find work.

Peter Brabin, head of training at Bill Plant Driving School said: “The focus needs to be on formal driving lesson training itself, rather than the discrimination of drivers specific ages. We all want safer roads and fewer accidents taking place, but placing restrictions on those just about to begin their lessons, or on those who have already held a licence for years based on nothing but their age group will have little to no impact whatsoever.

In order to make the roads safer; raise the standard of those learning to drive.

"The theory and practical tests taken by today's teenagers are far more stringent than those now in their 30s and 40s would have undertaken. Limiting access to driving for the young and even the old will have huge knock on effects for their employability, accessible leisure activities and also their ability to provide essential food shopping. Let’s focus on education and not discrimination.”

His views echoed those of Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driving School who said all drivers should consider regular refresher lessons.

He commented: “Any number of factors can affect competency on the road. The key to further reduce road deaths is improving driver behaviour through training and education. This applies to all new drivers regardless of age, and many take to the roads for the first time well past the current legal minimum. Increasing the minimum age for licencing from 17 to 18 merely pushes the problem back a year and does nothing for actual road safety. It also hampers the ability of young people to gain crucial mobility which may be essential for employment.”

“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 and abilities. Be it a confidence-builder for someone who’s been involved in a traffic incident, a skills brush-up for those who have been out of the driving seat for a little while or even just the average driver ensuring they haven’t slipped into bad habits, refresher courses only serve to improve road safety and attitudes towards driving.”