Legal requirements to drive
The legal requirements for driving in the UK are largely the same for everyone, regardless of age: drivers must possess a valid driving licence, insurance, an MOT certificate (where applicable) and road tax.
There are only two age-related differences in driving regulations, both of which come into effect at the age of 70.
- Once a driver reaches 70 years of age, they are required by the DVLA to declare that they have no medical disability.
- From 70 years onwards, drivers need to renew their licence every three years (as opposed to every 10 years for younger drivers).
DVLA and older drivers
It’s important to be aware that, at any age, the process for applying for a driving licence (including renewals) relies on self-assessment. Whether under or over 70 years of age, applicants are not required by the DVLA to take any health or eyesight tests; nor are they asked to provide any health certificates or letters from their GP or optician.
There are certain health conditions, including problems with eyesight, which drivers must report to the DVLA. This is a legal obligation and again, it applies to everyone, irrespective of age. The government maintains an up-to-date website giving details of the health conditions that must be reported.
Your loved one’s GP
If a GP has cause to believe that one of their patients is unfit to drive, they will almost always discuss this in the first instance with the patient. In some instances, GPs may choose to contact the DVLA directly if they’re particularly concerned about someone who is unfit to drive. However, they should do this only after discussing their concerns with the patient.
Some GPs are reluctant to contact the DVLA directly, largely due to concerns over breach of confidentiality. There are guidelines stating that GPs have a responsibility to report unfit drivers, but they are first asked to strike a balance ‘between disclosing information in the public interest and protecting the confidentiality of a patient’. The advice GPs are given on this issue (by various professional organisations) is not always consistent and tends to change over time.
Opticians are responsible for carrying out eye tests, and they will be able to tell your loved one if their eyesight (or eye health) may make them unfit to drive. However, there is no legal requirement for an optician to advise the authorities if they have concerns regarding a particular individual; indeed, it would be very unlikely for an optician to do this.
If you’re concerned about your loved one’s eyesight or hearing, read our article on hearing and eye tests to find out how to get help.
A number of other professionals who come into contact with your or your loved one (such as occupational therapists, district nurses, social services) may have reason for concern over their ability driving. It may be something someone has said to them, or they may have noticed a particular health condition and suspected this would affect driving ability.
Again, there is no legal obligation for people in these professions to report someone as unsafe to drive. They should express their concerns directly to you or your loved one. In some instances, the professional might contact family members or friends of the person concerned, but note that they have no obligation to do so (and there may issues of client confidentiality to consider, too).
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