Pensioners aged over 70 in poor health may be allowed to continue driving if they agree to fit a tracking device to their car that restricts them to daylight hours near their home.
Under current rules licences expire when drivers turn 70 and those wanting to keep driving must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of medical conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and diabetes.
They must submit their licence for a review every three years.
But new proposals being discussed by the DVLA and Driving Mobility, the official network of driving assessment centres, would enable the over-70s in affected categories to be eligible for “graduated driving licences”.
Rather than losing their licence because of ill health, they would potentially be restricted to driving within a radius of 20 or 30 miles from home and barred from driving at night.
Edward Trewhella, the chief executive of Driving Mobility, said: “A lot of older drivers stick within their own locality; they go to the shop, the doctor’s surgery, go and see a granddaughter down the road, probably on minor roads with which they are familiar.
“This process would regularise that and make it legal for them to do so as long as they didn’t take a trip outside of an area or outside of a time restriction. That would mean they were driving safely in their familiar environment.”
There has been a surge in the number of older drivers on the roads in recent years. The proportion of over-70s with a driving licence doubling from a third to two-thirds in the past 25 years.
Meanwhile the number of deaths on the road among this age group jumped from 95 in 2010 to 145 last year, while fatalities for every other age group fell sharply or stayed stable.
Official data from the Department for Transport shows the riskiest time for collisions involving older drivers is between 4pm and 8pm on weekdays.
Critics of the current self-referral system include Patricia Colquhoun, 69, who lost her son Neil, 28, when 90-year-old Turner Waddell, a one-eyed GP with dementia, drove a mile the wrong way down a dual carriageway.
She said: “Nobody likes to say they’re old. They all say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me.’ People are not 100% honest especially when keeping a driving licence is so important to them.”