New Survey Reveals 49% Of Brits Want Older Drivers Banned From The Roads Completely

Link to use to cite study:

  • A huge 69% think older drivers should have to retake their driving test, starting at the age of 60.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 (49%) think older drivers should be banned from driving completely.
  • 57% of GB adults think the legal driving age to take a test and drive on the roads should be increased to above 17.
  • Over 1 in 3 (37%) think you should have to be 18 to legally drive. Plus, over 1 in 10 (11%) think you should have to be 21 years old - 4 years above the current age limit.
  • The over 55s are nearly twice as likely as 18-24 year olds (64% versus 36%) to think we should increase the driving age limit above 17.
  • The top reason selected by respondents who think the driving age should be 18 or above was that they think younger people take more risks when driving (66%).
  • 77% of those who think there should be a ban on people driving at a certain age said it was because they think older drivers don’t have fast enough reaction times.
  • 1 in 10 think a compulsory re-test should occur between the ages of 60 and 65.
  • The top reasons they believe older drivers should retake the test are:

          > Older drivers don’t have fast enough reaction times (71%).

          > Older drivers have bad eyesight (47%).

          > Older drivers drive slowly and cause more congestion (33%).

          > Older drivers don’t remember the rules of the road (26%).

  • With numerous research showing younger drivers are the more unsafe drivers on the roads than older drivers, do we unfairly stigmatise older drivers and why?

A and YouGov survey found almost half of Brits (49%) think older drivers should be banned from the roads. And a staggering 69% think older drivers should have to retake their driving test. 

The most common reason why respondents thought senior drivers aged 60 or over should be banned or re-take their test was because ‘older drivers don’t have fast enough reaction times’.

The majority of people thought the compulsory test retakes should occur between the ages of 71 and 75 (20%). Those in favour of the more drastic upper age limit measure and complete ban, chose a much older age for this - 86-90 (10%) and older than 90 (14%).

Younger adults between the ages of 18-24 thought the compulsory re-test should come at a younger age. More than 1 in 3 (37%) thought it should occur between 60 and 70, compared to just 13% of those aged 55+ who said the same.

Despite many research studies not supporting this view, it’s clearly a strong public perception that we don’t trust older drivers on the roads.

Do we unfairly stigmatise older drivers and why?

It’s likely that reports of high profile crashes such as Prince Phillip’s collision back in January, significantly impact our view on the safety of older drivers. But with the majority of research showing that older drivers are much safer than younger drivers, are we being influenced by these individual, highly publicised cases?

IAM Roadsmart states that, “older drivers are safer than young drivers - just 8% are over 70 and they are involved in around 4% of injury crashes; 15% of drivers are in their teens and twenties, but are involved in 34% of injury crashes. 

The UK suffers from an ageing population and loneliness for elderly people. For the older generation, driving on the road is not a luxury but actually a necessity for many.

Without taking away this basic right and often essential part of life, there are many other ways we can ensure older drivers can continue on the roads but remain safe.

Research by Monash University found, ‘There is an enormous amount of research showing that mandatory testing of older drivers does not make the roads safer. One study compared the safety implications of the Finnish and Swedish licensing practices. Finland requires annual medical checks starting annually at age 70 for licence renewal, whereas Sweden has no age related controls. The Finnish program did not result in fewer crashes than in Sweden – but importantly it was found that Finland had a higher older pedestrian fatality rate, presumably the result of an increase in the number of older people relying on walking as their main transport option.’

Current measures in place already include over 70s proving they are medically fit to be driving every three years. GEM Motoring Assist’s initiative ‘Still Safe to Drive’ provides information on where to get specific assistance for senior drivers and the following tips:

  • Get fit and stay fit. (Exercising for 15 - 20 minutes per day, if possible).
  • Frequent eye tests, allowing potential issues to be detected early.
  • Take a driver MOT, e.g. GEM’s driver assessment - a great way to update driving skills.
  • Ensure the car driven best suits current needs.
  • Modify your driving to avoid journeys that could cause stress.
  • Reflect on driving and learn from mistakes. Don’t ignore any near misses or previous incidents.
  • Avoid the roads at very busy times by planning journeys and make sure to have plenty of breaks on longer journeys.

It appears that banning older drivers or forcing a re-test are strongly recommended against, in favour of supporting senior drivers to remain on the roads safely.

Considering evidence points to younger, inexperienced drivers causing problems on the roads rather than senior drivers, what can be done to keep younger drivers safe on the roads too?

57% of people think we should raise the driving test age above 17 years old. In fact, more people think the legal age for learning to drive should be 18 (37%) than those who think it should stay at the current legal age of 17 (33%).

 The top reasons why respondents think the driving age should be 18 or above is because:

  • They think younger drivers take more risks when driving (66%)
  • They think younger drivers are not mature enough to drive on the roads (56%)
  • They think younger drivers cause more crashes (40%).

The over 55s are nearly twice as likely to think we should increase the driving age limit above 17. With 64% of over 55s believing this should be 18 or above, versus just 36% of 18-24 year olds.

Public perception regarding upping the age limit to start driving, is backed up by research. Over 1 in 10 (11%), think you should have to be 21 to legally drive, 4 years above the current age limit. According to the AA, ‘28 per cent had had a crash by the time they were 21 years of age’.

Back in 2013, the government did consider raising the test age in an attempt to cut young driving accidents, but it remains at 17 and isn’t looking likely to change. There are further changes we can campaign for to keep younger drivers safer: 

  • Lengthening the amount of tuition before a test
  • Better public transport as a driving alternative for younger people
  • ‘Black box’ technology to monitor driving for a specified time after passing
  • Education around using mobile phones in the car and driving under the influence
  • According to the RAC, Graduated Driving Licenses could include potential restrictions for a specific period of time such as:

          > Only carrying 1 passenger.

          > Lower blood alcohol limits.

          > Slower speed limits.

          > Engine power restrictions.

          > Compulsory ‘P’ plates

Graduated Driving Licenses are the most likely new enforcement, with the government announcing a pilot scheme in Northern Ireland 2019/2020, and the chance this will be rolled out in the UK following the pilot.

A spokesperson from Brake said:

“These are certainly some interesting findings that add to the debate about the most effective ways of ensuring the safety of our younger and older drivers who are amongst the most at risk on our roads. It is essential to have robust procedures in place that ensure younger and older drivers are not inadvertently putting themselves and others at risk. 

“A dangerous combination of inexperience and over-confidence makes younger drivers a high road safety risk, which is why we are calling for the introduction of a comprehensive Graduated Driver Licensing system in the UK. A GDL system would incorporate a mandatory learning period and post-test training, ensuring that all new drivers had the necessary tools and knowledge to drive safely on our roads. For older drivers, licence renewal at 70 prompts them to check and self-certify they are fit to drive but this process can be improved. The government needs to look at how fitness to drive regulation can be more rigorously enforced, such as compulsory eyesight testing throughout a driver’s career, rather than simply expecting drivers to self-certify that they are fit to drive.”

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy and Research, said:

 “Not surprisingly, the survey shows that many people blame the old and the young for crashes when this is not always the case.  In reality, new drivers are the most at risk group and older drivers are among the safest.  Statistics do however show that drivers over 85 do start to have more crashes as their faculties fade and their experience is no  longer enough to compensate.

“The clear message from the survey is that there is strong support for change and that must be harnessed to inform a new national debate about the best way to keep older drivers safer for longer and to give new drivers the experience they need for a lifetime of safe driving on the road.  This debate cannot be delayed much longer as the demographic time bomb of an ageing population is ticking right now.

“Older drivers really value their independence and it may be that a tougher testing regime is an acceptable trade off to allow them to keep driving. At IAM RoadSmart we think that raising the age of licence renewal to 75 and insisting on evidence of an eye test is a simple and effective first step that could be introduced very quickly.  If doctors could also prescribe a mature driver assessment then friends and families of an ageing relative could have much more confidence in their ability and safety. Simply asking for a rerun of the existing test designed for learners would stop many older people driving far too early and generate a downward spiral of state dependence, illness and depression for thousands stuck at home.  For younger drivers graduated driver licensing (GDL)  is widely accepted as the best way forward. What we need now is for the respondents to this survey to tell their MPs to get on with adopting it!”

Our research

The YouGov survey polled 2101 people in GB between 11th and 12th April 2019. The data has been weighted to be representative of the GB adult population. The survey asked adults (18+) questions to understand their personal views and attitudes towards driving ages.


Jo Callwood

0114 383 0734