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Monday, 30 August, 1999, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Elderly and doctors fail road test
Some elderly patients should not be driving
Many elderly patients do not realise that they should not be driving a car, but doctors are little help when it comes to advising them, a study has found.

There is a range of restrictions that come into play when a driver reaches old age or suffers a serious disease.

But the study found that almost half of those who considered themselves fit to drive should not have been allowed on the road.

Yet doctors responsible for the care of such patients were stumped when it came to offering accurate advice.


Researchers at the department of healthcare for the elderly at Belfast's Ulster Hospital interviewed 150 elderly patients with an average age of 77, and 50 doctors ranging from the most junior to the most senior.

The patients came from emergency and rehabilitation wards as well as from day care units.

Twenty-one of the patients were still driving, 14 of them regularly drove more than 25 miles and three had recently driven more than 150 miles.

The researchers found that six of the 21 should not have been driving at all.

In total, 103 of the patients considered themselves fit to drive but almost 50% had medical restrictions on their fitness to drive.

Among the former drivers, one had only stopped when he reached 90.

Licence renewal

But despite the patients' false confidence in their abilities, doctors were in no position to correct their perceptions.

Only half of those questioned knew that a licence should be reviewed when the driver reaches the age of 70, and only nine knew that the licence should then be reviewed every three years after that.

When questioned on what conditions should be reported to the relevant authorities, most correctly suggested epilepsy, but less than half mentioned stroke and diabetes.

Nine mentioned blackouts and only two recognised that dementia should be reported.


Only one doctor knew the Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority was the place to go to find out about medical restrictions on driving.

Publishing their findings in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, the researchers said: "As the number of elderly drivers grows, doctors will increasingly have to educate patients about driving restrictions.

"Patients have difficulty knowing if, as a result of their medical condition, they are eligible to drive or not. If patients are not able to decide this, then doctors need to be able to advise patients appropriately."

See also:

30 Jul 99 | Health
Elderly 'denied cancer care'
31 Jul 99 | Health
Gender gap in elderly activity
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