Older People Fit to Drive?

The Times leader, 20 October 2016

Older people who can safely get behind the wheel must be allowed to

Cars are heavy metal projectiles that can kill. They can also keep older people in touch with friends, family and work. As the government ponders how to promote the wellbeing of an ageing population it needs to do more to tackle ageism in the workforce. More specifically, it needs to ensure that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency does a better, quicker job of deciding which elderly people are fit to drive, and which are not.

These tasks are linked. New research compiled in part by Andy Briggs, the government’s new “older workers’ champion”, shows that people over 50 looking for a job are five times more likely to get an interview if they do not reveal their age than if they do. At the same time it is clearer by the day that staying in work beyond the statutory retirement age, and staying mobile enough to get to work, gives many older people an extra sense of purpose and belonging as well as money in the bank. It also helps the actuaries struggling to fund pension deficits and the NHS.

In these circumstances it is especially important that older drivers who do not present a danger to others are allowed behind the wheel, yet the DVLA is getting in the way. A detailed study of complaints to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman reveals that “lives have been put on hold for years”, and livelihoods lost, because of a flawed assessment process run by the Drivers’ Medical Group (DMG), a DVLA department.

All drivers over 70 must now renew their licenses every three years. Those with medical conditions are reviewed by the DMG, but too often it has failed to consult patients’ GPs or acknowledge when they have passed eye tests or recovered from illnesses or operations. Inadequate consultation has also been a cause of tragedies when those who should not drive have been allowed to. There is no excuse for it.

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