Unsplash: Laura-Gariglio

At 110 years old, Vincent Dransfield still drives his car every day, getting coffee at the convenience store and buying lunch.  He lives independently in his own house in Little Falls, New Jersey; needs no help with daily living, and is quite self-sufficient, though his grandchildren visit him once a week to bring groceries and call every other day to check in.  You can read more about him here.  But if Mr Dransford lived in the UK, he might have to give up driving and lose his independence because of spiralling car insurance costs for older people.

There seem to be two attitudes to motorists in the UK.  One is to make as much money out of them as possible, like the Mayor of London whose ULEZ (ultra low emission zone) charges are estimated to bring in £300 million in the first year, and the other is to make driving as difficult as possible so people are forced to use public transport, which is usually inadequate in Wales, with the Government’s banning of new road builds and introduction of a carte blanche 20 mph speed limit.  When planning new housing, local authorities are encouraged to create ’15 minute enclaves’, little mini neighbourhoods where everything is within walking distance.  But without a doubt, the greatest pressure on older motorists is the spiralling price of car insurance.

Sometimes an older person’s insurer refuses to reinsure, with no explanation, says a financial advice website, that asks, ‘Are insurers trying to drive over-70s off the road?’  ‘They have done absolutely nothing wrong; their only crime, as far as the insurance industry is concerned, is that they are deemed elderly … and insurers are in profit-rebuilding mode and have decided that elderly drivers are easy targets.  But for many elderly people, especially those who live in rural communities, a car is a necessity.  To lose it would mean isolation and loneliness.   A survey by Age UK agrees that’ thousands of older people are being denied the right to drive and deprived of their independence, purely on the basis of age rather than actual risk’.  And before you ask, older motorists cause only 10 percent of accidents, according to this government website.

But there is hope!  Before finishing this article I checked on MoneySuperMarket.com, filled in the form and found quotes for around half the price I’m currently paying. It also let me add that I am an Advanced Motorist with the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), which might have made a difference.  The IAM course itself certainly made a difference to my driving.  And no! I’m not getting commission!

Whether or not you need to renew your car insurance, if you are over 50, it’s a good idea to take a refresher course.  It boosts your confidence and can reveal bad habits, as it did with me.

Unsplash: Jason Coudriet

A recent study by an independent insurance advisor found that 88 percent of UK drivers lacked basic knowledge and had not revisited the Highway Code since passing their driving test, and could not answer basic questions that included – What do triangular road signs indicate?  What lights are appropriate to turn on when driving on the motorway at night, when there are cars ahead of you? What is the legal speed limit on a motorway, if there are no signs showing it?  When driving on a wet road, what time gap do you think you need to leave between your car and the car in front of you?  And, what should you do if you have to slow down quickly when driving on the motorway?

Police in North Wales are also offering an independent assessment for older drivers.  Their website says: ‘You’ll go out on a drive in your own car with an expert driver, who can help you find out your strengths and weaknesses and keep you driving safely and confidently.’  It’s a great idea from a Police Force that has a reputation for strict enforcement of traffic rules!

With an ageing population, there are inevitably going to be more older drivers on the roads.  It makes sense to do all we can to stay independent, and safe.

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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