We need to renew driving licences at age 70. Find out how to apply for a new licence, and why you may need to surrender it. Some of the information also applies to younger readers with medical conditions, and there are thoughts on how to stop unfit elders driving.
Whether you drive a car, motorbike or other light vehicle, your licence expires automatically on your seventieth birthday. No ifs or buts. You can be as fit as a fiddle and able to run a marathon. It does not matter. Unless you renew your drivers licence at 70, you cannot drive.
There are special rules for bus, minibus and HGV drivers which can apply from younger ages.
There is no upper age limit to driving so you can renew your licence for as long as you feel able to drive safely.
Under present rules, driving licence renewal occurs every three years, so you have to go through the process again at 73, 76 and so on. There are plans to make this every five years but currently it remains every three years.
It does not matter whether you use a vehicle regularly, occasionally, never or whether you own one or hire one or do not have access to a motor vehicle. As long as you want a driving licence, you must renew it every three years when you reach 70.
When you renew your licence at 70 whatever is on your current licence continues. You can drive after 70 whatever you drove at 69.
If you passed a test on a car, you can continue to drive a car
If your licence is for an automatic only, that will continue to cover you for automatic cars only
If you passed on a motorbike, you can continue to drive a two wheeled motorised vehicle
However, you can give up your right to drive any class of vehicle should you wish.
Before looking at the way you can obtain a new licence when you reach 70, there’s a need to demystify some myths. Failing to do could cost you a lot of money and substantial inconvenience.
This is not true. Obtaining a new three-year licence does not require a new test. You 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 the DVLA. This applies no matter what your age.
There are numerous websites offering to renew your driving licence at 70 in return for sums ranging from £69 upwards. These are similar to sites offering to renew passports, European health cards and other documents for a fee either in excess of the standard amount or where there is no charge anyway.
These sites say they will do the hard work for you.
In accordance with current regulations, they have to state you can do this for nothing via the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA). In Northern Ireland, DVLA is replaced by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) but the process is similar.
The only costs associated with driving licence renewal is having a new passport photograph if you currently hold one of the old-style paper licences.
You may not need a new photo if you have a new style licence – DVLA will advise. This usually occurs if 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 a medical report from your general practitioner (GP) if your health has declined to the point that you might represent a danger on the roads to others as well as yourself. You might have to pay even if there is nothing that prevents you from driving.
Assuming you are in good health, your licence expires at age 70 but will continue provided you renew it. You do not have to stop driving. After that, you'll need to renew it every three years. Renewal is always free of charge.
You must apply for any categories of vehicle covered on your old licence, if you still want to be able to drive them after you renew your licence. If you don’t apply for any categories previously covered, 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. It has been known for categories, such as full motorcycle licence, to go missing in error during licence replacements. You will need to prove you passed that test to challenge it.
The DVLA will send you a D46P application form 90 days before your 70th birthday. If you have moved recently, you should ensure DVLA (or DVA in Northern Ireland) has an up-to-date 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.
You can renew driving licences online (not in Northern Ireland) for free if you're 70 years or over, or if your 70th birthday is within 90 days. You'll be given a user ID code and instructions on how to renew your licence.
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 take up to three weeks. During the present coronavirus outbreak, it may take longer.
You should send your old driving licence back when you renew your licence, but don’t worry if you have lost it or mislaid it. The old licence is of no use once you reach 70. There are no penalties for failing to return your old driving licence.
However, it is worth taking a copy of your old driving licence categories before sending it off. It has been known for categories, such as full motorcycle licence, to go missing in error during licence replacements.
You will need to prove you passed that test to challenge an omission.
DVLA leaflet INF5D (available online) has details of the main form used in non-problematical cases.
Generally, you have little to do provided you remain in good health and can pass the eyesight criterion of reading a standard numberplate at 20.5 metres. The eyesight test is self-declared and not assessed by a test.
You will have to prove your identity as you approach 70 although not at subsequent renewals. This is simplest if you hold a UK digital passport. You do not send this although you do have to give permission for DVLA to approach the passport authorities on your behalf.
If you do not have a UK digital passport or do not wish to give permission, you can prove your identity in a number of ways.
birth/ adoption/naturalisation certificates
a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions with your National Insurance number
Original of letter about a claim for state benefits.
You must provide proof of any name change such as a marriage certificate or divorce papers.
If your old photo on your newer style non-paper licence still works, you need do nothing unless advised otherwise. 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
Professionally qualified people (for example, lawyers, teachers or engineers)
Bank or building society staff
Ministers of religion
Local business people or shopkeepers
Local councillors, Members of Parliament, Assembly Members, Members of the Scottish Parliament
You may have to pay a fee for a signature in some circumstances. The signatory should be someone who knows you well. DVLA can check on counter-signers.
You can drive while your licence is being renewed but only if you meet certain conditions. These include:
you’re not currently disqualified from driving
you had a valid licence
your licence wasn’t revoked for medical reasons or you now have medical reasons making your driving unsafe.
If you've developed a medical condition or disability that could affect your driving, you must tell DVLA, even if you're not yet due to renew your licence. This also applies if your condition has worsened since your licence was issued.
These rules apply at any age – not just approaching 70 or subsequent renewals.
It's a legal obligation for you to declare certain conditions to the DVLA. If you have an accident you haven't declared a health condition, your insurance might not cover you.
Many worry they will be forced to stop driving if they declare a medical condition or disability. This isn't necessarily the case.
Your medical concerns may not affect driving ability
You may be advised on a medical route which will ensure driving ability
You may be asked to surrender your licence while you undergo further procedures
Some of the medical conditions that you must declare are:
diabetes – if it’s insulin-treated
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.
The DVLA website has a long list – in alphabetical order – of medical conditions which could affect your driving ability. Some of these are rare but there is also a space to write in any condition which is not listed.
If you have a doubt about your fitness for driving, you should report it and seek advice from a medical practitioner.
You will be asked to declare you can read a standard number plate at 20 metres, with spectacles or contact lenses if you normally wear these.
Many approaching 70 have declared they can read a number plate 20 metres away when they cannot. In many cases, a visit to an optician will rectify the problem.
Failing the sight test can render licences void and make your insurance invalid.
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.
Your first step is completing DVLA form M1. You can download this online but you must post or fax it to DVLA in Swansea.
This is a four-page form. It asks for name, address, phone, email and driver number if known.
Then you have to list your GP, consultants (if applicable), drugs you take (you have to declare alcohol dependence and use of illegal drugs), declare psychiatric episodes, fits and blackouts.
You then give permission to allow DVLA to contact doctors and accept you may be required to have a medical examination.
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.
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, if you’re not fit to drive.
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. However, if you don’t declare your condition, it could invalidate your policy.
If you’ve developed a medical condition, you may need to have your driving ability assessed. Or you may not have a medical condition, but have decided yourself that you could benefit from an assessment.
You can either get assessed through a local driver assessment scheme or through a mobility centre.
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.
If your medical condition or disability makes it more difficult to drive, then a mobility centre can advise you on the best options for your particular circumstances.
The DVLA can refer you (and pay for the assessment) if they’ve asked you to take it, but there may be a long wait. It can be quicker to refer yourself but you will have to pay – the cost varies depending on the centre.
Mobility centres have trained staff who can assess how your condition or disability affects your driving and look at what can help you to continue driving. The driving ability assessment will include:
Physical assessment to see if you can operate a car’s controls
Cognitive assessment to check your thinking skills
Visual assessment to check your eyesight
On-road assessment in a dual-controlled car
You’ll get to try out car adaptations to see what works for you.
If the assessment shows that your medical condition makes it unsafe for you to drive, the DVLA can tell you to stop driving until your condition improves.
In this case, you’ll need to reapply for your licence if, and when, you’re able to drive safely again. The 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 so you can prove your condition has improved.
If your health does not improve after you have been told not to drive, you cannot drive again.
It can be difficult to accept that we’re no longer able to do something safely that has been a routine part of life. But reducing or giving up driving doesn’t mean the end of your independence or mobility. Public transport and even taxis can be cheaper than car owning.
Many find adjusting to life without a car difficult at first. If you’re finding life without a car causing you to feel rundown, talk to a family member, friend or your GP.
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, it is time for that driver to re-assess.
Some older adults stubbornly refuse to give up the keys, no matter what, even though family and friends might have already done everything they can think of, such as:
Holding repeated conversations to ask them to stop
Showing proof that they’re no longer safe drivers
Calling a family meeting so it’s not just coming from one person
Reassuring them that they’ll still be able to go out
Some advise dramatic action such as letting down the tyres or hiding the keys. This rarely works. It may be better to point out that it is a criminal offence to drive when unable, it renders the insurance void and risks criminal prosecution in the event of an accident, even if no-fault.
In some cases, you could ask the police to intervene in a non-formal way.
There are special rules if you wish to drive a bus, minibus or heavy goods vehicle. Your licence must be renewed annually once you reach 65. The medical standards are higher and you may need to pay for a medical examination. This costs around £100.