In the Western world, people are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. As everyone ages, there is a desire to stay mobile, and in particular continue to drive in order to maintain their lifestyles. Shops and services are becoming dispersed, moving away from villages and towns to larger urban areas. Connections to lifelong family and friends need to be maintained often through long distance travel. It’s therefore no surprise that there has been a huge increase in older driving licence holders, and in the number of miles driven by the over-70s.
In 1975, UK figures showed that 15% of people aged over 70 held a driving licence; in 2014, this figure was 62%. Overall, fewer women now hold licences than men -– but there has been a substantial increase in female licence holders in the older age bracket, from 4% in 1975-6 to 47% in 2014. Correspondingly, 32% of men held a licence in 1975, compared to 80% in 2014. Since 1995, the increase in miles driven has fallen across all age groups by 8%, however for those aged 60-69 and those aged over 70, miles driven have increased by 37% and 77% respectively.
Driving has become both such a necessity and a desire that giving it up has been linked to loneliness and isolation, an increase in depression and health-related problems. One US study even found that non-drivers were four to six times more likely to die within three years than drivers within a three-year period.