Driving at over 70 – what you need to know to carry on driving

The law says you need a new driver licence when you reach 70. This tells you what you need to do; it describes the medical tests – many applying also to younger drivers – and how to give up your driving licence should you either want or need to.

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Driving at over 70 – what you need to know to carry on driving.

The law says you need a new driver licence when you reach 70.  This tells you what you need to do; it describes the medical tests – many applying also to younger drivers – and how to give up your driving licence should you either want or need to.  

Up to what age can I drive?

There is no upper age limit as you can drive safely. But you have to renew your licence when you reach 70 – and every three years after that although that might change in the future to every five years. 

How much you drive does not matter.  The law says you must get a new licence every three years when you reach 70.

How much does it cost?

Renewing at 70 – and every subsequent time is free.  Beware of websites that offer to do this for a fee.  

Does everyone need to renew a driving licence at 70?

Yes.  There are special rules for bus, minibus and HGV drivers from 65. 

Demystifying the myths.

Myth 1: You must take a new driving test when you reach 70

Not true. You will have to make a new health declaration including the ability to read a standard number plate at 20 metres (with glasses or contact lenses if prescribed).  

But if your health has changed so you can no longer drive safely, you must report this to DVLA (Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority) or the Northern Irish equivalent DVA. 

Health and eyesight rules apply no matter your age. 

Myth 2: You must pay to renew a driving licence

Not true. Many websites offer to renew your driving licence at 70 for £69 upwards. Avoid them – no matter how high they come on a search.  

These sites say they will do the hard work for you. Legally, they must state you can do this for nothing.  It’s easy.  They are a fraudulent waste of money. 

What am I able to drive after renewal? 

Whatever classes of vehicle your current licence covers will continue.  

  • If you passed a test on a car, you can continue to drive a car 

  • If your licence is for an automatic gearbox only, that’s what you continue to drive. 

  • If your test is motorcycle only, you may only continue to drive a two wheeled motorised vehicle

You can give up any class of vehicle should you wish.

How much does it cost to renew a driving licence at 70?

This is free other than a new passport photograph if you currently hold an old-style paper licence or your appearance has changed.  

You do not have to send photos at subsequent three-year renewals unless your appearance has changed.

You might also have to pay for general practitioner (GP) report if your health could make you a danger. 

How soon can I renew my driving licence?

DVLA will send D46P form 90 days before your 70th birthday. If you have moved recently, you should ensure DVLA (or DVA in Northern Ireland) has your new address.

If you do not receive this form, you can apply for a new licence on form D1 from post offices. Or phone DVLA on 0300 790 6801. The DVA is on  0300 200 7861.

If your licence expires and you don't apply for a new one, you won't legally be allowed to drive. That will automatically mean your motor vehicle insurance is void. 

Can I renew my driving licence online?

You can renew driving licences online (but not in Northern Ireland) for free. You'll be given a user ID code and instructions on how to proceed.

Can I renew my driving licence at 70 by post?

The DVLA will send you a D46P application form 90 days before your 70th birthday, and then every three years afterwards. Complete the form and return it to the DVLA.

If you have a photocard licence, you will need to send a new passport-type photo with your application form. If you have a paper licence, you will need to send an up-to-date passport-type photo with your application.

Postal applications should normally take up to three weeks. During the present coronavirus outbreak, it may take longer.

What happens while I am waiting?

You do not have to stop driving. But you must apply for vehicle categories covered on your old licence, or you’ll only be able to drive a car in future. 

It is worth taking a copy of your old driving licence categories before sending it off. 

What does form D46P involve?

DVLA leaflet INF5D (available online) has details of the form used in most cases.

You have little to do provided you are in good health and can read a standard number plate at 20 metres. The eyesight test is self-declared and not optician assessed.

Identity checks 

You will have to prove your identity as you approach 70 although not at subsequent renewals. This easiest way if via a UK digital passport. You do not send this although you must allow DVLA to approach the passport authorities.

If you do not have a UK digital passport or refuse permission, you can prove who you are in a number of ways.

These include

  • A payslip

  • Original of letter about a claim for state benefits.

  • birth/ adoption/naturalisation certificates

  • a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions with your National Insurance number

Don’t forget to provide proof of any name change such as a marriage certificate or divorce papers.

Do I need to get a photo counter-signed?

If you have to provide a new one (usually if your appearance has changed or you had a paper licence) then it will need to be signed by one of the following

  • Librarians

  • Professionally qualified people (for example, lawyers, teachers or engineers)

  • Police officers

  • Bank or building society staff

  • Civil servants

  • Ministers of religion

  • Local business people or shopkeepers

  • Magistrates

  • Local councillors, Members of Parliament, Assembly Members, Members of the Scottish Parliament

Some require a fee for signing. The signatory should be someone who knows you well. 

What if I have a medical condition?

If you've developed a medical condition or disability that could affect your driving, you must report this to DVLA/DVA, at whatever age. You must report if your condition has worsened since your licence was issued. 

It's a legal obligation to declare certain conditions to the DVLA. If you have an accident when you haven't declared a health condition, your insurance might not cover you.

Do I have to stop driving if I have a medical condition?

Many are concerned they will have to stop driving if they declare a medical condition or disability. But not always. 

  • Your medical condition may not affect driving ability

  • You could be told of a medical way to ensure you can continue driving

  • You might be told to get a specially adapted car

  • You may be asked to surrender your licence while you undergo further procedures

What are the penalties for failing to report a problem?

Failing to report this or any illness that can render you unfit to drive can bring a £1,000 fine. Your insurance will be invalid.

You can opt to give up your licence voluntarily and re-apply after suitable medical attention.

Reporting medical information.

Your first step is completing DVLA form M1. You can download this online but you must post or fax it to DVLA in Swansea.

Which medical conditions do I have to declare to DVLA?

Some of the medical conditions you must declare are:

  • dementia

  • diabetes – if it’s insulin-treated

  • Parkinson’s

  • epilepsy

  • any chronic neurological condition, such as multiple sclerosis

  • any condition that affects both eyes, or total loss of sight in one eye. 

Other health conditions may need to be declared, depending on what kind of licence you have and how the condition affects you. For instance, if you have no or restricted use of limbs, you may only be allowed to drive a specially modified vehicle.

What are the other conditions?

The DVLA website has a long list. But you can also include any which are not listed. 

What is on form M1?

This four-page form asks for personal details, doctors, drugs you take (including alcohol dependence and illegal drugs), psychiatric episodes, fits and blackouts. You have to allow DVLA to contact your doctors.  You must accept you may be required to have a medical examination.

What happens next?

After you’ve told the DVLA of a medical condition, it may:

  • make a decision based on the information you provide

  • contact your GP or consultant (with your permission) or arrange for a local doctor or specialist to examine you

  • ask you to take a driving assessment, eyesight test or driving appraisal.

How likely am I to lose my licence if I declare a medical condition to the DVLA?

Having a medical condition doesn’t always mean that you will lose your licence.

You should be able to continue driving if your condition doesn’t affect your ability to drive safely. Or you may need some help to adjust or make adaptations to your car.

Sometimes the DVLA will issue you with a driving licence for shorter periods than three years and then review again in the future.

The DVLA can also give you a licence that shows you need to fit special controls to your vehicle to help you to drive with your disability.

The DVLA can also tell you to stop driving.

Declaring a health condition to your insurer

If you have a condition that you need to declare to the DVLA, you also need to declare this to your insurer. You may find that your premiums go up or that you need to seek a specialist provider. If you don’t declare your condition, it could invalidate your policy.

How can I get my driving ability checked?

If you’ve developed a medical condition, you may need to have your driving ability assessed. 

This can be through a local driver assessment scheme or a mobility centre.

Local driver assessment schemes

Many local councils, as well as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the Institute of Advanced Motorists, offer driver assessment schemes. You can search for an assessment scheme near your home.

What does the mobility centre assessment involve?

The driving ability assessment will include:

  • Physical assessment to check you can operate the controls

  • Cognitive assessment to check your thinking skills

  • Visual assessment to check your eyesight

  • On-road assessment in a dual-controlled car

What happens if they say I can’t drive anymore?

You will be told to stop driving until your condition improves. You’ll need to reapply for your licence if, and when, you’re able to drive again safely. DVLA will provide you with a medical explanation and, if possible, state when you should reapply. 

Talk to your GP before reapplying for your licence to check options.

What happens if there is no improvement?

If your health does not improve after you have been told not to drive, you cannot drive again. 

Many find adjusting to life without a car difficult at first. 

What might family and friends do?

Unsafe driving at any age is a serious issue, but it is more common in older people. When others see warning signs, it’s time to discuss it. It is a sensitive topic. Once family and friends feel unsafe, re-assess.

What if the elder driver refuses to stop?

Some older adults stubbornly refuse, even though family and friends have already done everything they can think of, such as:

  • Asking them to stop – perhaps several times

  • Proving they are a danger 

  • Bringing in friends and family 

  • Reassuring them they’ll still be able to go out using taxis and public transport

Avoid drastic action such as letting down the tyres or hiding the keys. This rarely works. Remind them it is a criminal offence to drive when unable to do so, it invalidates insurance and risks criminal prosecution after an accident, even if no-fault.

Concerned people could ask for a non-formal police intervention.

Bus and HGV drivers

There are special rules for buses, minibuses or heavy goods vehicles. Licences must be renewed annually from age 65. There are higher medical standard, often including an examination that costs around £100.

Car insurance is just one of the costs of keeping your car on the road along with tax, petrol and servicing, so cut your insurance costs by comparing the best deals for you.

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