Am I Too Old To Pass My Driving Test?

Hand holding the steering wheel in a Citroen

When it comes to the driving test, there’s an overabundance of myths circulating around. Some believe driving examiners have pass quotas, while others believe the test is much harder (or easier!) than in the past. In the same vein, another common belief is that some learners are just too old to pass the driving test. With the legal age for learning to drive being 17, many are convinced that the longer you wait, the less likely you are to pass your test. It’s no surprise, then, to find that many older drivers are asking the same question: am I too old to pass my driving test?

We’re going to try and answer that very question—looking at common beliefs about older drivers, separating fact from fiction and helping you increase your chances of passing the test if you’re an older driver.


The odds are stacked against older learners on the test”

Dice on a wood surface

This particular myth is very prevalent in the learner driver community. It’s why so many older learner drivers tend to give up on driving—if the odds are stacked against them, is there even any point in trying? We have looked into this area of interest before in our article on driving test pass rates by age. There, we used the latest figures from the DVSA to determine who had the best chance of passing their test—younger learners or older learners.

To quickly summarise our study, we found that 17-year-olds stand the best chance of passing the test with a 55.8% pass rate. From then on, pass rates decrease as age increases—the difference just between 17 and 18-year-olds was 7.6%! Simply put, the average pass rate for older drivers is much lower than younger age groups. Before you start panicking, this does not mean that older drivers have no chance of passing the test. It just means that they’re coming in at a slight disadvantage compared to younger learners.

If you ask any ADI what age is the cut off point for learning to drive, no two will give you the same answer—because there isn’t one. As clichéd as it sounds, you never know what will happen unless you try. As we tell all of our learners when they ask about pass rates and their odds, numbers aren’t what have an impact on the outcome of your test—it’s your own ability and hard work. Put in the time and effort, and it will pay off. 

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

Dog sat in a car looking out of the window

When it comes to learning to drive, there’s a huge volume of skills that you need to accumulate in order to become a safe and confident driver, e.g., changing gears at appropriate times, spotting hazards and adapting to situations quickly. There are many who believe that older learners are set in their ways and are thus unable to pick up these skills as quickly as younger learners. It’s mind-blowing how many people put a lot of stock into this particular myth. Some learners end up postponing their lessons—due to time or budgetary constraints—only to put it off entirely once they reach a certain age. Why? Because they think they no longer stand a chance of being able to pass their driving test.

So, is there any truth to this myth? There’s certainly a slight grain of truth. As we age, our ability to soak up new information definitely wanes. In fact, you’re probably most able to assimilate new skills as a teenager—think about how much information you were able to retain in high school or higher education, compared to present day you. Of course, as with most things in life, this does vary from learner to learner. You’ll find plenty of older learners who pick up learning to drive faster than their younger counterparts.

Half of the battle when learning to drive is believing that you can do it. Instead of dwelling on your age or comparing yourself to younger learners, keep a positive outlook during your experience. It’s practically guaranteed that your instructor will have had a student older than yourself. If you feel like you’re not retaining skills well enough, you might want to look at increasing the intensity of your lessons. Alternatively, ask your instructor to concentrate on certain areas you’re lacking in.

③ “Learning to drive is difficult (and dangerous) for older learners due to ageing”

Someone holding glasses looking at eyesight test

As we age, we not only have to contend with a growing difficulty with retaining information—we also have to deal with physical deterioration. We’re dependent on our physical capabilities to be able to drive safely, such as spotting potential hazards or keeping an ear out for emergency vehicles approaching. When we have to deal with deteriorating eyesight, hearing and reaction times, it can become more difficult to drive as safely as we should. Additionally, factors like muscle stiffness and joint pain can get in the way of completing manoeuvres and checking mirrors. If you miss potential hazards on your test, or forget to do your checks properly, you’ll rack up faults in no time.

So, does this mean older learners shouldn’t bother? The answer’s a definite no. Whilst we’re all eventually going to fall culprit to this physical deterioration, it won’t affect us all at the same rate. In fact, you’ll find that some older drivers are as in good a shape as younger drivers. It will vary from learner to learner.

The only real way to push through the physical difficulties that can affect us with age is frequent practice. Whilst you can’t cure slow reaction times, you can take the necessary precautions and work with your instructor to devise ways to prepare for different kinds of scenarios on the road. Frequent lessons also build up muscle memory, which is vital when learning to drive.

“Older learners are the worst drivers on the road”

White car damaged in collision

Now, this is a pretty interesting myth. Just as younger drivers can get a lot of stick for reckless driving, older drivers also get a bad rep for being terrible drivers in general. When people are asked to imagine older drivers on the road, most tend to conjure up the image of someone driving at a snail’s pace on the motorway, causing accidents left, right and centre. So, is there any truth to the belief that older learners are the worst drivers on the road?

When it comes to learning to drive, some ADIs find older learners to be more risk-averse, excessively cautious and far more likely to spot out potential hazards. On the driving test, this caution doesn’t always translate well. Instead of seeing a careful driver, the examiner might just assume you don’t know what you’re doing and slap you with a driving test fault. This caution can also be just as damaging once you’ve passed—driving too slowly can cause confusion and accidents. Of course, some of these accidents are also caused by impatient drivers plagued by road rage, hell bent on rushing ahead of slower drivers.

In fact, it’s worth noting that older drivers fare relatively well on the roads once they’ve passed. The Association of British Insurers, for example, found that “17-24 year olds with two years or less driving experience are much more likely to make a catastrophic claim involving life-changing injuries than newly qualified 37-44 year old drivers with the same driving experience”.

It can be difficult to find the perfect middle ground between cautious and confident. The important thing to remember, however, is that if you’re going in for your test, it’s because your instructor believes you’re ready. Simply drive on the test as you would with your instructor. Remember that you’ll pass your test as long as you don’t make any major faults and no more than 15 minor faults. 

“If older learners don’t get it right the first time, they’ll never get it”

Learner driver and an examiner in the car

Some older learners dip in and out of learning to drive, sometimes for years on end. Sometimes it’s due to not having the time to do it consistently, and other times it’s because it’s cheaper to do it a lesson at a time. PassMeFast alumni Cheryl was the same. She passed her test 24 years after she’d first started learning. What you need to remember, however, is that learning to drive isn’t like riding a bike. You need consistent lessons in order to build up muscle memory and master the skills you need on the road.

Additionally, infrequent lessons can embed a kind of reluctance amongst learners. If you’re taking lessons weeks apart, you often feel like you’re not making any progress. Instead, you spend half of your time just recapping what you did in the previous lesson. Before long, you begin to dread your lessons—making you feel like you’ll never get it right.

Frequent lessons are the key to success when it comes to learning to drive and passing the test. Work with your instructor to find a lesson plan that suits your schedule and intensity preferences. If you don’t mind driving for long stretches of time, you might opt for intensive lessons. If, on the other hand, you can only handle an hour or so at a time, opt for a semi-intensive format instead. 

It’s never too late to learn to drive

It doesn’t matter if you’re learning to drive for a job or just crossing it off your to-do list: deciding to take that first step takes you that much closer to passing your driving test. You certainly shouldn’t let your age put you off! In fact, there’s a good chance that someone much older than you has passed their test before. Take a look at some inspirational stories below if you don’t believe us!

  • Keith Limbert, 79, decided to learn after his wife fell ill and could no longer drive. He passed after 40 lessons and three tests.
  • June Evans, 75, first started to learn in 1967, but put it off in order  to bring up her children. Years later, she finally passed on her fourth attempt!
  • PassMeFast alumni Richard, 70, took an automatic driving course with us and passed with flying colours in no time at all!

The answer, then, to “Am I too old to pass my driving test“, is a solid no. Although older drivers are at more of a disadvantage than younger learners, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother. Age really is just a number when it comes to passing your driving test. It’s all about finding what works for you. If you’re slightly shaky even with lessons, try practising with family members or friends. If you struggle moving through the gears, you might want to give automatic transmission a try instead.

Looking to increase your chances of passing? You’ll have a better chance if you pick the right driving school…

Learn with PassMeFast

Road trip

It doesn’t matter what age you are, PassMeFast can help you cross that finish line.

Our courses are designed to suit learners of all ages and experience. Instead of spreading your lessons over a few months, PassMeFast offers intensive and semi-intensive courses that can be completed in days or weeks. Instead of wasting time recapping your last lesson, you can build up your experience and skills quickly and efficiently. PassMeFast learners also have the benefit of being able to fit their lessons around their own schedule. Better still, PassMeFast specialises in fast-track practical tests, enabling you to take your test weeks or even months ahead of DVSA waiting times.

Take a look at PassMeFast’s course prices page to see what’s on offer and take one step closer to getting your full licence. Not sure how many hours you need? Give us a ring on 0333 123 4949 to get a recommendation from our sales team. Alternatively, book a course online if you already know what you want.


FAQs

1. I’m 60+ years old. Is it too late to learn to drive?

In case the article didn’t clue you in, it’s never too late to learn to drive. Whilst you might be at a disadvantage compared to younger drivers, it doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance at passing. There are plenty of learner drivers over the age of 60 that have managed to pass their test with flying colours. Learning with an instructor who will build up your confidence and skills is vital—and that’s what PassMeFast offers. Give us a call on 0333 123 4949 and take one step closer to ditching the L plates.

2. Will I need more driving lessons compared to a younger learner?

It varies from learner to learner. As we’ve said, some older learners pick up driving skills faster than younger learners, and others lack confidence in their own ability. No two learners are the same, which is why our courses are tailored to suit learners with any level of experience. If you’ve had lessons in the past and aren’t sure how many more you need, find your ideal course with our course recommender (not sure what this is? Visit our introduction to the tool).

3. How long does a licence last after 70?

Once motorists reach the age of 70 in Britain, they need to renew their driving licence every three years. Please note, this does not mean you have to retake your driving test. The DVLA will automatically send you a renewal form 3 months before your birthday, giving you plenty of time to send it off. You will have to declare any medical conditions on this form and confirm that you meet the eyesight standards.

4. What’s the maximum age for driving?

The UK doesn’t have any laws in place to stop people from driving after a certain age. It all ultimately depends on your health and overall driving ability. If you have a medical condition that affects your driving, your doctor will urge you to stop. If your vision deteriorates drastically it might also be a sign that you need to hand up your driving licence. Remember that the legal standard for eyesight is that you must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres, which can be achieved with the help of spectacles.

If you’re concerned about your driving ability, make sure you go in for regular check-ups with your GP. Alternatively, book a driver assessment test with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

5. Who’s the oldest person to pass their driving test?

Eileen Ash from Norfolk passed the driving test at 105. She first started driving in the early 1930s, so she never actually took a driving test—anyone who held a licence before 1934 didn’t need to.

Statistics released by the DVSA in November 2018 revealed that 110,790 people aged 90 and over still held their licences, and there were 314 licence holders aged 100. The oldest licence holders were four people aged 107!

6. Is it easier for older drivers to learn in automatic cars?

Yet again, it depends on the learner. Many opt for automatic lessons because it means they don’t have to deal with gears or the clutch—common areas of difficulty for many. That being said, automatic cars tend to be more expensive than manual. Be aware that, if you pass your test in an automatic car, you’ll receive a driving licence that restricts you to driving automatic cars; you won’t legally be able to drive a manual car with this type of licence.

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.