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Course for Norfolk’s older drivers aims to keep them on the road for longer

PUBLISHED: 17:46 02 October 2017 | UPDATED: 18:04 02 October 2017

Georgina , 79, who has dementia, at the wheel, with Kristie Burdett, community safety manager for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, during the Road Casualty Reduction initiative. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Georgina , 79, who has dementia, at the wheel, with Kristie Burdett, community safety manager for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, during the Road Casualty Reduction initiative. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

It’s an issue that divides the driving world.

Should older drivers be tested to see if they are safe enough to be behind the wheel - and if so, when?

Georgina, 79, who has dementia, at the wheel of a fire engine during the Road Casualty Reduction initiative with the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Georgina, 79, who has dementia, at the wheel of a fire engine during the Road Casualty Reduction initiative with the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The question has been raised as a week-long initiative to give information, advice and support to older drivers across Norfolk begins.

Driving Safer for Longer is offering guidance on what is available to them in the form of refreshing their skills and how their medical conditions may affect their driving.

The project is part of the Road Casualty Reduction Partnership initiative led by Norfolk County Council’s Road Safety team which involves Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.

Statistics show one in every six people injured in collisions on Norfolk’s roads is injured in a collision involving an older driver. Older drivers are also more likely to suffer serious or life threatening injuries in a crash.

Georgina, 79, who has dementia, at the wheel of a fire engine, with Kristie Burdett, community safety manager for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS), during the Road Casualty Reduction initiative. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Georgina, 79, who has dementia, at the wheel of a fire engine, with Kristie Burdett, community safety manager for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS), during the Road Casualty Reduction initiative. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

With the number of drivers aged over 70 expected to increase significantly over the next few years the initiative is targeting the older demographic.

Kristie Burdeff, community safety manager at Norfolk Fire and Rescue, said: “The aim is to engage with as many older drivers as possible. We just want them to stay safe and to keep driving safer for longer.”

She said older drivers can often worry that by raising concerns and issues they may end up having their license, and ultimately their independence, taken away from them.

Miss Burdeff added: “It is about how we engage and educate drivers going forward and not scaring people away. We want them to maintain their independence.”

Emergency services carrying out a practical demonstration in Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt Emergency services carrying out a practical demonstration in Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

Currently there are no compulsory medical or driving tests for older drivers.

Road safety charity IAM Roadsmart said despite misconceptions older drivers are among the safest on the road. The organisation said the emphasis should be on maintaining independence by helping older drivers to continue to drive for as long as they are safe to do so.

A spokesman said: “While older drivers are safer than other age ranges they need to be aware of age related changes to their physical and mental capabilities which may affect their driving, there are ways to compensate for these.”

‘I feel good, confident and competent’

Charity East Anglian Driveability (EAD), which helps to keep disabled and elderly people mobile and independent, are also taking part in the initiative.

Driver Georgina, who lives in a village near Watton, has dementia.

The 79-year-old said she was worried about how she would get around if she was not able to drive.

“I live in a little village and my nearest town is three or four miles away so it is either driving or going on the bus.

“Without my car I would not be able to do anything. There is no shops in my village.”

Through EAD Mrs Rose has two assessments a year to see if she is still capable of driving. One is a driving simulator and the other is a cognitive test. She said: “It is marvellous and I would recommend it. I feel good, confident and competent. It is a good feeling.”

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What do people in Norfolk think - should drivers be retested at 70?

Matt Partridge, 41, an insurance worker from Norwich, said: “Yes definitely, I think people should be retested from 70 onwards. People can drive long beyond that age but it is better to be safe than sorry.”

Tracey, 40, a retail manager from Dereham, said: “I don’t think they should. They’ve passed their test, why should they have to do it again just because they’re older? The only reason they should be retested is if a doctor advises it.”

Insurance worker Michelle, 39, from Norwich, said: “Drivers probably should be retested when they’re elderly, considering the way some of my family drive. But people are living a lot longer these days, so maybe not until they’re 85ish.”

Jack Baynes, 78, who is retired: “Yes on balance I suppose there should be retests at some point. That said, I am still driving and I wouldn’t be very happy if I was forced to do one.”

Information for older drivers

When you reach the age of 70 your driving license expires.

The license needs to be renewed to be able to continue to drive and it will need to be renewed every three years after that.

If you have health conditions such as dementia, diabetes, or those which affect sight or hearing, they must be declared to the DVLA.

Schemes are available to help older drivers who have become less confident on the road or have concerns about aspects of their driving.

Norfolk County Council’s Guidance for Older Driver or GOLD programme, offers a driver development session designed to refresh skills and increase confidence.

And charities including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) also offer driving assessments which are taken by examiners.

Information about the GOLD scheme can be found here

Guidance can be found at RoSPA

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