Driving over 70
Drivers of 70 and above, many of whom have decades of accident-free motoring behind them, are generally safe drivers.
Indeed, a policy paper published by ROSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention Of Accidents) in 2015 reported that people still holding a driving licence at 70 are no more likely to be the cause of an accident than any other age group.
However, as you get older, there are a few rules that you need to be aware of when driving – not least of which is making sure to renew your driving licence at 70, as otherwise it will expire. Many drivers believe that their driving licence is for life, but that is not the case. Even younger drivers need to renew their driving licence every 10 years to get the photo on their photocard licence updated.
Everyone has to renew their driving licence – and will receive a photocard licence instead of a paper licence, if they haven’t had one before – when they turn 70, even if their details haven’t changed.
As well as renewing your driving licence, there are a few things the law says you must do if you intend to continue driving after 70, as well as some things you might like to consider doing in order to ensure your safety and that of your fellow drivers.
You must renew your driving licence
You must renew your driving licence when you reach 70 and then do so every three years thereafter.
If you let your driving licence expire without applying for a new one, you won’t legally be allowed to drive – a side effect of which is invalidating your car insurance, so make sure that you stay on the right side of the law and start thinking about renewing your driving licence as your 70th birthday draws near.
Money expert Annie Shaw answers a reader's question on renewing a driving licence:
I understand that a photo driving licence needs to be renewed every 10 years. I passed my driving test at the age of 58, six years ago and have just had to renew my licence at a cost of £20.
I have just received my new photo licence and have noticed that again it is only valid for six years – by which time I will be 70 and will have to renew again.
Is this in order, or have I been cheated out of four years on each occasion?
When you reach the age of 70 you always have to renew your driving licence – that’s what the law requires, I’m afraid.
As long as you have no health issues, there should be no problem in getting a replacement and the good news is that once you reach the age of 70 – or if you’re due to turn 70 in the next 90 days - renewals are free.
As for having to renew your current licence after six years, I suspect that your provisional licence dates from 10 years ago, although you only passed your test six years ago.
However, once you reach 70, you must renew your driving licence every three years – though as this is free, it will only cost you time rather than money.
How do I renew my driving licence after 70?
The DVLA will send you a D46P application form 90 days before your 70th birthday – if your details are up-to-date. If you haven’t notified the DVLA of a change of address – itself an offence – you may find yourself in breach of the law by getting behind the wheel without a current permit to drive.
What if I don't receive my D46P application form?
Even if you’ve been very conscientious and informed the DVLA of every move, don’t rely on receiving a renewal reminder, as not having received the form won’t be accepted as a reasonable excuse for not renewing your driving licence should you get caught out.
If you don’t receive a form to renew your driving licence, you can visit the Post Office to pick up a D1 application for a driving licence form – this can’t be downloaded from the internet as it includes features that can’t be printed; but if you’d rather renew your driving licence in the comfort of your own home, simply apply online.
How do I renew my driving licence online?
It’s not an onerous task; in fact, renewing your driving licence online is pretty straightforward on the gov.uk site: Renew your licence at age 70 and over
If you haven’t used the online service before, you’ll need to register with an email address, your home addresses for the last three years and your National Insurance number.
While you’re at it, you can change your driving licence photograph at the same time, which is a good idea if your appearance has changed drastically since you last applied for one. If you do this, you’ll also need your passport number to hand.
How do I renew my paper driving licence?
If you're updating your licence for the first time since 1998, you'll need to upgrade from a paper licence to a photocard licence. You can fill in the form as usual, but you'll also need to enclose an up-to-date photo - the kind you'd use for a passport. If you want to apply online, you'll need your passport number.
When will I receive my renewed driving licence?
If you renew a driving licence online, you should get your new licence within a week of applying – another advantage over renewing your driving licence offline, as that may take up to three weeks.
Can I drive before my renewed driving licence has come back to me?
Essentially, so long as none of the conditions surrounding your old, valid driving licence have changed, then you can continuing driving whilst your driving licence is being renewed, but if you’re worried, the DVLA has a handy leaflet you can refer to here: Can I drive whilst my driving licence application is with the DVLA?
You must meet the minimum eyesight requirements to continue driving after 70
When you renew your driving licence, you’ll be prompted to confirm that your eyesight meets the minimum requirements. The requirements aren’t too strict; as a guide you should meet them if you can read a standard car number plate (wearing glasses or contact lenses if you normally wear them) at a distance of twenty metres.
You also need to have an adequate field of vision and meet the demands of the Snell Test (the one where you read rows of letters in ever-decreasing size), so now might be a good time to visit your optician and ask them to give you an eyesight test to put your mind at rest.
When your renewed driving licence arrives, take a moment to check the details carefully. If the code ‘01’ appears on the back of your driving licence, it means ‘eyesight correction’, and you’ll need to make sure you always wear your prescription glasses or contact lenses when behind the wheel.
It’s important to answer honestly when completing the form to renew your driving licence, as you may otherwise be fined or prosecuted if you are involved in a car accident.
Would you pass your driving test if you took it today?
You must notify the DVLA of any significant changes in your health
You must tell the DVLA if you have a ‘notifiable medical condition’, or if such a condition has worsened since you last renewed your driving licence.
What conditions should I declare to the DVLA?
Notifiable conditions are anything that can affect your ability to drive and include:
- Heart conditions
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Other neurological and mental health conditions
- Any physical or visual impairments.
Bear in mind that if you have a condition to reveal to the DVLA, you’ll also need to inform your car insurer.
Ignorance of worsening conditions should not be used as an excuse, so take the opportunity for a medical check up just before your driving licence renewal date rolls around.
What happens after declaring my medical condition to the DVLA?
The DVLA will get back to you with a decision within 6 weeks, or send a letter if their decision is likely to take longer than that. In the meantime, they may contact your doctor or consultant, arrange an examination for you, or ask you to take a driving assessment or test, or an eyesight test.
Whilst you wait for their decision, you are usually able to remain on the road - unless your licence was revoked - though obviously, if you feel your safety or the safety of others is at stake, refrain from driving.
Will I lose my driving licence after declaring my medical condition to the DVLA?
Whether you lose your driving licence or not depends on the severity of your condition and the impact it could have on your ability to drive.
Telling the DVLA and voluntarily surrendering your licence will usually make your application for a new licence happen much faster.
What happens if I just don't tell the DVLA about my medical condition?
Not telling the DVLA and continuing to drive will mean your driving licence is invalid, and so is your car insurance. You could also be fined up to £1000 and have your licence revoked, which makes getting it back much harder - so it's always worth being upfront with any significant changes to your medical wellbeing.
Plus, if your doctor knows about your seizure and also knows that you are endangering yourself and others by continuing to drive, they can break doctor-patient confidentiality in order to inform the DVLA, though they must tell you that they are going to do this.
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You could consider taking an IAM driving assessment
If you find yourself becoming a slightly nervous driver as you approach 70, you might be interested to learn that The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) offers a 60-minute Mature Driver’s Assessment for £49.
This is undertaken in your own car and on roads you’ll be familiar with and is designed to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, along with areas for development. It’s completely confidential and won’t be shared with anyone else.
Who knows, it might prompt you to take the IAM’s Skill For Life course, the starting point for your new journey as an advanced driver!
As you can see, getting older doesn’t mean you can’t stay mobile. The wealth of experience you’ve gained over the years will help offset slightly slower reflexes and, with a little forethought and care, there is no reason you can’t continue driving after 70 for many years.
And even if you aren’t yet approaching 70, check your driving licence is still valid
Regardless of how far off your 70th birthday it, it’s always worth checking your driving licence is still valid. Over two million motorists are taking to the road with out-of-date licences, an offence that can attract a fine of up to £1,000.
Between 2010-2013, some 734,000 drivers paid out £41 million in fines, averaging around £56 a time. You want to make sure you don’t join their ranks.
Your criminality will be compounded further because if you drive without the requisite permit, you are almost certainly driving uninsured – another offence.
Finding out when your driving licence expires isn’t necessarily an easy task. There’s no obvious clue, such as the words 'expiry date'. You need to look for a number sequence that follows the characters '4a' and '4b' on the card. The numbers following '4a' denote the date when the card is 'valid from' and '4b' is the date when it is 'valid to'.
Are paper licences still valid?
June 2015 saw the abolishment of the paper counterpart to the photocard driving licence - so what does that mean if you only have a paper licence?
If you have both the paper counterpart and the photocard licence, then the paper counterpart holds no legal status and can be destroyed; however, if you received your paper licence before 1998 and have no photocard licence, your paper licence is still perfectly valid - until your 70th birthday, when you'll need to update to the photocard driving licence.
Your old paper counterpart used to record any penalty points, so if you want to check how many penalty points your driving licence has now, you can do this online here: gov.uk/view-driving-licence. You may also have to do this if you wish to hire a car, as it will generate a code the hire company can use to check your penalty points online.
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