Having a disability, mobility issues or just plain getting older doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t drive your own car. There are many specialist adaptations and features that can be added to a vehicle to make driving or accessing it as comfortable as possible, together with local organisations who can help if you have questions or concerns about your driving. If you want to know more about driving a car or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV), you should find this post useful.
While there is no upper age limit for drivers in the UK, there are some rules that may apply to elderly people who want to drive. At the age of 70 UK drivers must renew their licence if they want to carry on driving. This doesn’t mean taking another driving test, you would just have to fill out an application form (which then has to be updated every 3 years). The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA, or DVA in Northern Ireland) will send you a form to fill in and return, or you can do it online using the Gov.uk website.
As long as you don’t have a condition that hampers your driving, it’s safe and legal to carry on motoring, regardless of when you were born.
If you have a medical condition or a disability that you think could impact your driving, you might need an assessment to check that it’s still safe for you to drive.
There are many medical conditions that the DVLA list as reasons someone should think about stopping driving, including poor eyesight, memory problems, mobility issues, cancer, heart conditions and Parkinson’s Disease. There’s a full list here on the Gov.uk website.
While none of these conditions are exclusive to older drivers, many are much more common when people reach older age.
Visit your doctor and get medical advice if you think you may be taking medication or that you could have a medical condition that may affect your driving. Driving assessments also can be carried out by a number of organisations, including your local Driving Mobility centre, who will carry out a simple assessment designed to suit your needs.
People with a disability who receive a higher or enhanced rate Mobility Allowance can use this money to lease a brand-new vehicle through the Motability Scheme.
Around 600,000 people across the UK currently choose to spend their Mobility Allowance benefit on a new car or WAV leased through the Motability Scheme. The Motability motoring package is included with every leased vehicle, and it includes insurance for up to 3 drivers, regular servicing, breakdown cover, replacement tyre cover, replacement windscreen cover and a huge 20,000 a year mileage allowance.
People often think that the Motability Scheme has an upper age limit, and while that’s partly true, people over the equalised state pension age for men and women (which in 2021 increased from 65 to 66) can still lease a vehicle through the Motability Scheme in certain circumstances.
To join the Motability Scheme you need to receive one of the following government funded Mobility Allowances:
The confusion arises because the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has an upper age limit of 65 for anyone applying for one of these disability-related benefits for the first time.
So, if you are already in receipt of one of the qualifying Mobility Allowances when you reach pension age, you can carry on driving a Motability vehicle.
Unfortunately, the Attendance Allowance cannot be used to lease a Motability Scheme car or WAV.
If you are 66 or older and develop care needs because of a mental or physical disability, you can’t apply for one of the Motability-qualifying Mobility Allowances. You will instead be asked to apply for the Attendance Allowance. The Attendance Allowance (a tax-free, non-means tested benefit) is meant to provide extra money to pay for the care of the claimant, not necessarily their mobility.
A Simple Steering Wheel Ball Can Give You More Control When Steering
If you think you might need an vehicle adaptation to make it easier and safer to drive or get into a vehicle, there are many clever adaptations that can be fitted to your vehicle by specialist adaptation firms across the UK.
Adaptations generally fall into 3 categories:
Adaptations to consider include devices like lifts and hoists to help with the loading of mobility scooters and wheelchairs, products like easy to grip steering wheel balls and left foot accelerator that can make it easier to drive, and fitted transfer plates and grab handles that can help when getting into and out of a vehicle.
If you’re unsure about the kind of adaptations you might need, speak to a local adaptation firm or make an appointment to visit a local Driving Mobility assessment centre, where a trained specialist will be able to guide you through all the available options.
A version of this article was originally written for the National Careline, who provide help and support to the elderly, their carers and their families.