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Can we shop our elderly relative to the DVLA to get them to stop driving?

My father is 95 years-old and lives by himself. He doesn’t need full-time care, but I do pop over most days with shopping, to clean and do anything else that he might need.

He still has a small car and while I don’t believe he has driven much during lockdown, I noticed that he been to a shop when I visited recently, and the only way he can do that is by car due to his rural location and physical health.

When I suggest to him about stopping driving, sometimes he is completely on board with the idea and says to sell his car, but I can mention it on another day and receive the opposite message.

Drivers aged 75+ are statistically more likely to be injured in a car accident according to the Department for Transport’s latest analysis (stock image)

I hate this feeling of me stripping away any kind of freedom he has and mollycoddling him, but he is a little unsteady on his feet while his sight and hearing have slowly declined in the last few months. 

Importantly, I don’t want him to be a danger to himself, or to other road users.

Someone told me you can alert the DVLA and it will contact older drivers, and request they re-sit their test, which I know my dad won’t do. 

He is also likely to take notice of that official letter and call it a day, rather than listen to me or other family members. Does it do this in a sensitive way, am I being unreasonable and what can I do?

Ed Magnus of This is Money replies: I’m sorry to hear about your predicament.

There is no set age limit for when a person must legally stop driving and as such, the onus is very much on your father to take responsibility for that decision himself.

That said, all drivers must ensure they are medically fit to drive and should alert the DVLA of the onset or worsening of a medical condition that could impact this.

Anyone with concerns about how a medical condition could affect their fitness to drive should speak to their GP or a medical professional involved in their care.

If your father is unwilling to give up driving or notify the DVLA that he may be a potential danger to other road users, then you are ultimately doing the responsible thing by alerting the DVLA yourself.

Car crash death rates per million of population are slightly higher for those aged 75 and over according to the latest road casualties report released by the Department for Transport. 

Fatality rate per million population, by age band and road user type in the UK (2019) - the blue part of the graph is for car occupant, but isn't broken down by who was driving

Fatality rate per million population, by age band and road user type in the UK (2019) – the blue part of the graph is for car occupant, but isn’t broken down by who was driving

If you feel concerned about your father’s sight and hearing and think he may be a danger to other road users, then you would not only be protecting the wider public, but also your father who could be harmed in an accident.

It is also worth mentioning that his doctor, optometrist or other healthcare professional should notify the DVLA themselves, if there is a genuine concern for road safety.

Your father’s GP has a duty to report him to the DVLA if it’s in the public interest to do so and medical professionals are permitted to notify the DVLA of a driver’s medical condition where the patient does not consent or is unwilling or unable to notify the DVLA themselves.

We spoke to Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK and a spokesperson from the DVLA to help better advise on this matter.

Abrahams replies: The ability to keep driving makes a huge psychological and practical difference to many older people, but the reality is that for many of us, the time will come when the smart thing to do is to hang up the keys for good.

Knowing when the right time is to call it a day with driving can be difficult and sometimes our loved ones may realise that’s the position we have reached before we do ourselves.

Everyone has to take responsibility for being safe behind the wheel, regardless of age, but if the driving of someone close to you is giving you serious cause for concern, then having an honest conversation with them about it is probably the best initial approach.

On top of renewing our driving licence every three years after reaching 70, we are all required to disclose certain medical conditions to the DVLA that could possibly impede our capacity to drive safely.

These include health problems like stroke, Parkinson’s Disease and glaucoma, most of which are a lot more common as we get older

A spokesperson for the DVLA replies: All drivers, irrespective of their age, must ensure they are medically fit to drive at all times.

They must tell DVLA about the onset or worsening of a condition that could affect this.

We also investigate notifications from others who may have concerns about a person’s fitness to drive, including relatives, friends, medical professionals and the police.

This recognises that there may be occasions where a driver lacks insight into their ongoing ability to drive safely and may not notify the DVLA themselves.

The DVLA will investigate and take the appropriate action, and where we are notified of a medical condition that may affect driving, the driver may be referred for further assessment.

We then make an evidence-based decision on whether the driver can retain their licence.

If we find evidence a driver does not meet the appropriate medical standard, we immediately remove their entitlement to drive.

Where a driver needs to be referred for assessment, we will contact them via the post, and inform them of the next steps.

More information about driving and medical conditions is on GOV.UK website.

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