For millions of us, driving is an important part of our personal, family and working lives, providing freedom and independence to get about as and when we need to. Driving can be enjoyable and pleasant, but also involves a certain amount of risk, and can be stressful.
Mature drivers are, in general, safer than those with less experience. But as we get older, our reaction times, health and fitness – including our eyesight and physical condition – decline. Age-related conditions can also begin to affect our driving.”
RoSPA recommends that regardless of age, we all complete regular driving assessments and take refresher training to upskill. This page answers common questions that RoSPA is asked by mature drivers and their families.
How do I renew my licence at 70?
Driving licences expire when we reach 70 years of age. So, when you reach 70, you need to renew your licence if you want to continue driving. You then need to renew it every three years, or more often if required due to a medical condition. Around 90 days before your licence expires, the DVLA (or the DVA in Northern Ireland) will send you a reminder and an application form to renew your licence.
When renewing your licence, you’ll be asked to declare any health conditions that may affect your driving and whether you meet the vision standards for driving. You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell the DVLA or the DVA about a medical condition that affects your driving. When you renew your licence, it’s a good opportunity to get a medical check-up and optician’s eyesight test so that you can make these declarations with confidence.
It’s free to renew your licence and you can do it in three ways.
- Online using the GOV.UK website. If you have a paper licence, you can still renew your licence online, but you’ll need an up-to-date, passport-type photo or current passport, which the photograph can be taken from. Once you’ve completed the renewal process, your licence should arrive within one week.
- Using the D46P form sent to you by the DVLA (or if you’re in Northern Ireland, a DL1R form sent by the DVA). Paper renewals take longer to process than online renewal.
- Using a D1 form obtained from the Post Office.
Can I drive while my licence is being renewed?
You can drive while your licence is being renewed if you meet certain conditions, even if your licence has expired. Read the guidance Can I drive while my application is with DVLA? for more information. There’s also advice for drivers in Northern Ireland.
How can I continue to drive a minibus or large motorhome at the age of 70 or over?
Many drivers when they reach 70 may wish to carry on driving a minibus (D1 licence category), perhaps for voluntary or paid work, or continue driving a large motorhome (C1 licence category covering motorhomes between 3,500kg and 7,500kg).
If this is the case, you won’t be able to renew your licence online. Instead, you’ll need to complete a D2 application form (or DL2 form in Northern Ireland), and get a D4 medical examination form (or DLM1 form in Northern Ireland) completed by a doctor.
You can obtain the D2 and D4 (or DL2 and DLM1) forms from the Post Office, or download them from DVLA or DVA (Northern Ireland).
How do I know if my eyesight is safe for driving?
It’s very common for our eyesight to get worse as we grow older. This can be due to the natural ageing process or because of an eye disease, such as cataracts. Some conditions make it harder to see as far ahead as we used to be able to, or to see objects in our peripheral vision. It might also be harder to change visual focus, such as looking ahead through the windscreen (or behind through the mirrors) then shifting focus to look at the displays on the dashboard.
To drive safely, we need to be able to see properly so that we can see road signs and markings, other road users, and any hazards on the road early. Poor eyesight can increase our reaction times, resulting in not being able to judge someone else’s speed or distance. This can result in braking or taking avoiding action too late, or even not seeing something or someone completely.
The law says you must meet the minimum vision standards for driving. The standard test of eyesight is that you must be able to read a car number plate from 20m (65ft 8in), approximately five car lengths, with your glasses or contact lenses if you use them.
You must also have an adequate field of vision and meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye – your optician can tell you about this and offer you a test.
If you’re in any doubt, you should see an optician or optometrist. We can adjust to certain eye conditions that develop over time, so as we get older, our sight can change without us being aware of it.
RoSPA recommends having your sight checked by an optician or optometrist at least every two years. You can get a free NHS eye test if you’re aged 60 or over. Eye tests are free in those living in Scotland, regardless of age.
What can help me to drive at night?
Your eyesight changes in later life and this may make it harder to see road signs and other road users, especially in low light or sudden light changes in shadows.
Glare from oncoming headlights can also be a problem at night. Older drivers frequently have difficulty seeing in poor light conditions, as our eyes become less able to react quickly to changes in light, and we can also start to have difficulty with colours and contrasts in poor light.
So, what can you do?
- Make sure to keep your windscreen clean, inside and out. Dust or grime on the inside can create additional glare, especially at dawn and dusk.
- Check that your headlights, sidelights and indicators are all working correctly.
- Make sure you leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front to provide a ‘safety bubble’ to allow you additional thinking and stopping time in case of an emergency.
- Consider dimming your dashboard lights to avoid distraction.
- If you wear glasses, they should be anti-reflective so that the headlights from other cars don’t impair your vision. Anti-reflective lenses can also help reduce strain on your eyes.
- Look away from oncoming lights to make sure your eyes don’t become temporarily blinded and glazed. Try looking down and to the left of the road momentarily if you’re dazzled by glare.
- Adjust your interior mirror to the dipped position to avoid being dazzled by following vehicles.
- Don’t drive when you’re tired.
- Look for reflections in the dark. These reflections could possibly be from an animal’s eyes up ahead. You’ll see the reflections before you see the animal, so make sure you slow down if you see them.
- Make sure you get your eyesight checked regularly by an optician or optometrist.
Can I drive with a medical condition?
As we get older, we can often start to suffer from various medical conditions, some of which can affect our ability to drive safely. You must inform the DVLA or DVA (Northern Ireland) if:
- you develop a ‘notifiable’ medical condition or disability
- a condition or disability has got worse since you last got your licence.
‘Notifiable’ medical conditions and disabilities include epilepsy, strokes and other neurological conditions, mental health problems, physical disabilities, and visual impairments. Always check if your health condition is one that needs to be reported to the DVLA or the DVA (Northern Ireland).
If you’re unsure about your medical condition, consult your doctor, optician, pharmacist or other medical professional, and comply with any decision or recommendation they give you.
Many conditions will allow you to continue to drive, and some may require additional checks or more frequent licence renewals, so always check.
Can my medication impair my driving?
In old age, we become more susceptible to illness and injury, and this may affect our ability to drive. Medicines and prescribed drugs help restore our health but may produce side-effects that can affect our driving skills. Don’t presume that your doctor or pharmacist is aware that you’re a driver – you should always inform them and ask if the prescribed medication will impair your driving. Never drive if you feel that your medicine has impaired your driving ability. For example, if you feel drowsy, confused or unable to concentrate.
Even medicines bought over the counter – such as cold and flu remedies, painkillers, antidepressants and sleep aids – can cause adverse side-effects, including drowsiness, nausea, and blurred vision, all of which can put motorists at risk. We all know that it’s illegal for someone to drive under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. But it can also be illegal to drive when taking certain prescribed or over-the-counter medicines if they’re not managed correctly. If in doubt, contact your doctor or pharmacist and don’t drive until you know what effect your medication has on your judgment, co-ordination and reaction time.
You can also find out more by visiting the GOV.UK website.
What is a suitable car to use as I get older?
Quite often, our needs change as the years pass. Some of us might still dream of owning a sports car, but it may be time for a more considered approach and assessing what fits our current and future needs and lifestyle. On reaching retirement, we may spend a lot less time driving, so this may be the time to look for something smaller, easier to drive and more economic. On the other hand, we may need something that has room for grandchildren or to store a mobility scooter or wheelchair.
We don’t recommend people to suddenly change from a manual to an automatic or vice versa without having some driving lessons or refresher training with a driving instructor. Driving an automatic car can be very different to driving a manual and without some training to get used to the differences, pedal confusion or gearstick confusion can occur.
There are some basic things to consider, particularly if you have limited mobility:
- an easy drive
- simple and easy-to-reach controls
- easy access
- safety features
- suitable space and comfort
- good visibility
- a higher ride height for a commanding view of the road
- wider door openings
- a practical boot with no lip.
Most new cars come with the latest safety and driver assistance technology that can make driving easier and safer. It can be a good idea to look out for the following features:
- autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- reversing and parking aids
- blind-spot warning (BSW)
- lane assistance systems
- adaptive cruise control
- electronic stability control (ESC)
- forward collision warning (FCW)
- satellite navigation (satnav)
- adaptive front lighting systems.
In 2030, the UK is to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. So, it’s worth considering whether to invest in an electric car – the initial outlay can be expensive, but it can be cheaper to run in the long term.
What is the best way to negotiate a roundabout?
Negotiating a roundabout is covered in detail in the Highway Code under rules 184 to 190.
Source: Highway Code (2022). Rule 185: Follow the correct procedure
The key factors to consider when negotiating a roundabout are:
- mirror-signal-manoeuvre at all stages.
- select the correct lane when approaching. If there are two lanes when you approach a roundabout and you’re turning left or going straight ahead, select the left lane. If you’re turning right, select the right lane.
- signal your intentions. For example:
- if turning left, indicate left on approach and keep the signal on until you leave the roundabout
- if going straight ahead, indicate left once you’ve passed the exit before the one you want
- if turning right, indicate right on approach and keep your signal on until you pass the exit before the one you want, then indicate left to exit the roundabout.
- look forward before moving off to make sure traffic in front has moved off.
- give priority to other users to the right on the roundabout, unless directed otherwise.
- give room to cyclists, horse riders and horse-drawn carriages. Don’t overtake them in their lane or ‘cut them up’ when you exit the roundabout. These road users are allowed to stay in the left lane, even if they’re going right or all the way around the roundabout.
When negotiating mini roundabouts, treat them as normal roundabouts. You must pass around the central markings, not cut across them.
How can I continue to drive safely as I age?
To help maintain our driving mobility, we need to brush up on our skills from time to time and seek independent advice. We MOT our cars every year, so think about carrying out a personal MOT on yourself.
We recommend that all drivers should take a driver assessment or driving refresher training at different stages in their lives. By doing this, we identify potential hazards early, so we can rectify them before they increase our risk of being involved in a collision or incident on the road.
We offer lots of information on driver assessments, including topics such as:
Safe driving tips
We’ve created a page on safe driving tips so you can continue driving safely for longer.
The Highway Code is essential reading for all road users. When was the last time you looked at it? Over the years, the Highway Code has changed extensively. You can buy it in most bookshops or view or order it online.
Is there an age when I should retire from driving?
There’s no set age to retire from driving. We all age differently and as long as we’re fit and safe, there’s nothing to stop us continuing to drive into old age. At the age of 70, you’re no more at risk of being involved in a collision than any other group. In fact, younger drivers are at a higher risk on our roads.
However, research has shown that in their mid-70s, drivers sometimes start to have problems assessing complex or high-speed traffic situations. Fragility increases with age, so if older people are involved in a collision, their injuries tend to be more serious, and recovery takes much longer.
So how do you know when is the right time to retire from driving? We suggest considering the following to help you decide when the time is right for you.
- Have regular eyesight tests with an optician to see if you meet the vision standards for driving.
- Take a regular driving assessment with an independent expert to brush up on your skills and make sure you’re still safe to drive.
- Seek medical advice relating to any medical condition or medicines you’re taking to make sure you’re safe to continue to drive.
- Sometimes the cost of owning, maintaining, and running a car can steer us to retire from driving. Our cost calculator helps you to compare the cost of owning a car with the cost of using public transport.
How can I plan for the future and manage without the use of my car?
We should all plan for the future, recognising that at some point we either will want, or be required, to retire from driving. Everyone needs a retirement plan – and one for driving is no exception. Some things to think about and plan are:
Where do I want to go and how can I get there?
Where do I need to go and how can I get there?
What public transport is available locally?
What local taxi services are available and how much do they cost?
Is there a voluntary car/minibus service in my area?
Do I have friends and family nearby who may be able to offer lifts?
Can I cycle or walk to places I visit regularly?
To help prepare you for when you will no longer be driving, it’s worth trying different travel options – such as using public transport or a taxi – when you want to go somewhere that you visit regularly. This will help you adapt when you come to rely on a different mode of transport.
For more information on different travel options across the country, visit the Driving Mobility website.