The sense of a road ending

Steve Gooding

The former director at the Department for Transport and current RAC Foundation director discusses when and how we should hang up the keys.

Most regular readers of Highways magazine will have set up automatic alerts so they are among the first to read new reports published by the RAC Foundation. By now, you will have read Dr Julie Gandolfi’s extensive study, looking at approaches being taken around the world to keep older drivers driving safely. But if you haven’t, may I commend it to you?

To put some numbers on the table, there are already 5.5 million driving licence holders in Britain aged 70 or over. That’s 41% more than the 3.9 million licence holders in the same age group back in 2012. And this is, largely, a generation of people whose lifestyles have been heavily shaped by their ability to own and drive a car – a vehicle that offers a degree of comfort and convenience that even a minicab struggles to match.

It’s not only that the number of older people is rising as a proportion of the total population, but they are living longer, too. The good news is that many older drivers self-regulate their driving – avoiding busy roads at busy times; not driving at night or in poor weather conditions.

But while many people are staying fit and active well into retirement there are some aspects of ageing that catch up with us all eventually – our eyesight deteriorates, our cognitive ability reduces, and we become frailer and liable to injury. Evidence from America suggests that the amount of light needed by a 72-year-old to drive safely is an astonishing 16 times than that required by a 20-year-old.

This explains why alongside ‘Rail fare shock’ and ‘Phew, what a scorcher’, we routinely read calls in the media for compulsory re-testing of drivers over a certain age.

There are three very clear problems with this call. First, at what age?

We all grow older at the same pace, but the same cannot be said for the decline in our physical and mental abilities – my physique may be the envy of a younger man, but he wouldn’t want my eyesight. Second, we don’t want to deter those safe older drivers who do self-regulate and thus are better able to stay active, mobile and connected.

Third, even if we did decide that we should have a test and could decide at what age we’d take it, we’d then have to decide what form it should take, which turns out to be a far greater challenge than you might have thought.

The phenomenon of an ageing population isn’t unique to the UK – it is probably at its most pronounced in Japan. Dr Gandolfi’s report reveals how hard it has proved to devise a test for older drivers that demonstrably reduces road safety risk, even for the extreme set of hurdles facing older Japanese drivers, who, after the age of 70, must take part in a lecture, a battery of driver aptitude tests involving simulator driving, vision tests, and on-road driving assessment, a discussion session and, for drivers over 75, a cognitive screening test.

While clever folk worry about a possible test that would do the trick, three avenues offer a nearer-term prospect of working.

First, the wealth of driver-assist technology making its way into the modern motor car can help with everything from the mundane business of parking (a struggle when twisting and turning the body gets harder) to systems that detect other road users and on to the automatic application of the brakes. For these systems to be of most help, auto companies need to be encouraged to make them as intuitive as possible (have you read the owner’s manual for your car? I thought not).

Second, we need to do more to assist older drivers in making informed decisions about their driving. Telematics could help – the infamous ‘black box’ insurance policies that help make driving affordable for young people could generate information about driving style for older drivers too.

Regular check-ups with GPs and opticians – the RAC Foundation has long taken the view that eye tests should be compulsory for all drivers, repeated at least every 10 years with renewal of the photocard licence).

And third, perhaps all the effort that is going in to improve public transport options as a response to our climate change and air quality concerns will help create more comprehensive, more widely used services that, in turn, might help take some of the stigma out of hanging up the ignition keys.

For many relatively young people, ceasing to own a car is becoming something of a fashion statement, maybe it will become a badge of honour for older people too.

Highways jobs

Collision Investigation Officer

Transport for Greater Manchester
£26,844.00 - £38,228.00 Per Annum
Are you excited by the opportunity to make a difference to the roads of Greater Manchester? Greater Manchester
Recruiter: Transport for Greater Manchester

2 x Environmental Health Officer (Food, Health & Safety)

Dacorum Borough Council
£31,218 to £39,786 (Inclusive of London Fringe Weighting) + Car Allowance   
Seeking to appoint 2 x fully qualified Environmental Health Officer’s to work within our... Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Dacorum Borough Council

Senior Traffic Engineer

East Riding of Yorkshire Council
£32.029 - £34.788
We seek an enthusiastic and experienced traffic engineer to manage our Traffic Team. East Riding of Yorkshire
Recruiter: East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Head of Asset Management (Regeneration & Environment)

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
£55,856 - £59,773
We have a current vacancy for the role of Head of Asset Management, and we are looking for a dynamic individual to lead the service Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recruiter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Environmental Education Assistant

Brent Council
£22,779 - £24,030 p.a. inc. (pro-rata)
Looking for instructors who complement our enthusiastic, motivated and friendly staff team. Brent, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Brent Council

Structures Asset Manager

Kent County Council
£52,713 - £58,774 per annum (salary dependent on experience) 
If you have the ability to succeed in either of these roles and are able to prioritise competing demands and objectives, coupled with... Ashford, Kent
Recruiter: Kent County Council

Structures Senior Engineer

Kent County Council
Starting salary £33,082 per annum
Providing engineering support for maintenance of highway structures, liaising and working closely across KCC. Ashford, Kent
Recruiter: Kent County Council

Development Management Engineer

Warwickshire County Council
£37,849 - £39,782 per annum
The successful applicant for this post will be capable of taking the lead on work within the team associated with... Warwickshire
Recruiter: Warwickshire County Council

Permit Officer – Place

Enfield London Borough Council
£27,228 - £29,241
You will have the ability to understand and learn relevant legislation and be able to work on your own initiative but also work as part of... Enfield (London Borough), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Enfield London Borough Council

Senior Policy Planner

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£32,643 – £45,704 depending on skills
Are you looking for working arrangements that enhance your work-life balance? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Community Services Manager

Copeland Borough Council
Competitive Salary
Looking for an energised and enthusiastic candidate to lead and focus the service through the challenges set by the Resources and Waste Strategy. Moresby, Whitehaven
Recruiter: Copeland Borough Council

Highways Infrastructure and Maintenance Manager - Highways Network

Bridgend County Borough Council
£37,813 - £40,760 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arrived inside the Highway Asset Maintenance Team within the Communities Directorate. Bridgend (Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr)
Recruiter: Bridgend County Borough Council

Business Support Officers - Transport Team (2 Jobs)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£19,554 - £21,166
Within the Transport Team you will be required to work flexibly in accordance with the needs of the service, which can men... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Transportation Planning Manager

Brent Council
£55,638 - £58,779 p.a. inc.
ou will have an excellent knowledge and understanding of transport policy at both local and national level. Expertise of both people and... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Brent Council

Commercial Contract Supervisor

Wirral Borough Council
£30,507 to £32,878
No holding back. No excuses. Just change Wirral. Wirral, Merseyside
Recruiter: Wirral Borough Council

Technical Officer – Pest Control

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£19,554 - £23,836
This job is temporary for up to 11 months from the date of appointment to cover the absence of the current post holder. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Divisional Director Neighbourhoods & Sustainability

Glasgow City Council
£83,708 - £95,232 (LDR3a, Grade 11)
This innovative role will contribute to the Council Strategic Plan Theme of A Sustainable Low Carbon City Glasgow, Glasgow City
Recruiter: Glasgow City Council

Principal Transport Manager

Be First
Competitive Salary
As our Principal Transport Manager, you will deliver the Local Implementation Plan, ensuring the £2.4million TFL budget is used effectively London (Central), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Be First

Highway Operations Manager

Croydon London Borough Council
£43,590 - £45,585
We are seeking an enthusiastic, motivated and well organised highway operations manager Croydon (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Croydon London Borough Council

Structures and Watercourse Manager

Croydon London Borough Council
We are seeking an enthusiastic, motivated and well organised manager to look over the structures team and wider Highway section. Croydon (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Croydon London Borough Council

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Valuing our roads: What is a network worth?

Also inside:

Traffex review 

Diary of a flood.

Beautiful roads

Live Labs exclusive briefing 

View the latest issue

Latest Video