medically unfit driver

Hundreds of medically unfit drivers on UK roads, says new report

23rd May, 2023

To be honest, there’s been some fairly unsettling headlines for drivers in recent weeks. We told you recently about a new variation on a common scam doing the rounds – specifically, a particularly malicious form of the crash for cash scheme, called Clip for Cash.

It turns out, though, that this isn’t the only danger on the roads – following a recent Freedom of Information request, it turns out that hundreds of motorists are continuing to drive despite having their licences revoked or refused due to medical reasons. Slightly concerning if you’re not keen on unexpectedly having to scrap your car!

So what exactly is going on?

How serious is the problem?

The Freedom of Information request revealed 1303 prosecutions since 2019 for driving after a licence has been cancelled or revoked on medical grounds. That works out to about 200 a year or so. There were 269 cases of drivers getting points on their licences in the last year alone, which itself as down from a concerning high of 412 in 2021.

To be honest, it’s not great, but it’s probably not something you need to personally panic about – in a nation of about 35 million drivers, the chances of you coming across one of the drivers highlighted is about 0.0037% (or 0.004% if we’re rounding it up).

That’s not to downplay the seriousness of the risks these drivers are taking though, knowingly or not. There are all sorts of conditions that can get you banned from driving, and the DVLA and NHS takes them all very seriously. Some – like certain mental illnesses or conditions like Tourette’s – are only dangerous in their most severe forms.

Others can make it much more difficult for drivers to obtain and retain their licences from a standing start – such as epilepsy, visual impairments like cataracts, or proneness or blackouts or seizures, or neurological conditions like dementia or Parkinson’s. We won’t go through them all exhaustively – the full official list has around 200 entries, so we’d be here for quite a while!

What’s the process of removing someone’s licence?

Drivers are legally required to inform the DVLA of any medical condition that may have any discernible effect on their driving. At the DVLA’s discretion, the agency may then revoke the licence (or refuse to issue one) on medical grounds. The DVLA investigates each case by liaising with medical professionals and general practitioners, so as you can imagine, it’s not a decision that’s made lightly.

Drivers do have a right to appeal, and they may choose to reapply for their licence if and when their doctor says that they meet the required medical standards. (And once they turn 70, drivers must renew their licence every three years.) But as you’ve already surmised, there’s a certain subsection of medically disqualified drivers who ignore all that and carry on driving anyway, even though it carries a fine of £1000.

It’s quite possible that the 1303 number is a conservative estimate, too. The DVLA has recently been criticised for the amount of time it took the process medically-related driving licence applications, with the number of pending cases standing at 168,000 by the end of November 2023 (largely due to the operational backlog introduced by the pandemic and related lockdowns.)

And of course, while the chances of you encountering a medically unfit driver might be quite slim, they only make up a small proportion of drivers without a licence – and there are more of them than most of us probably think!

An oft-quoted statistic from the AA says that there’s around 800,000 unlicensed drivers on the roads, normally accompanied by an ominous quote that reads something like “and that number is only likely to rise”. Actually though, this statistic dates back as far as 1999, so its veracity at this stage is somewhat dubious. Only four years later in 2003, official government documentation mentioned that the number was closer to 470,000, so there seems to be a lot of room for interpretation.

We do know from media reports that the number was at least 70,000 in 2016 – and though that’s a significant difference from other figures, it’s still a lot of people. We’ll save you from counting on your fingers, but in a nation of 35 million drivers, it’s about 2%. Or to put it another way, about one in every fifty drivers. Certainly, explains some of the driving on those little roundabouts, doesn’t it?

Ultimately though, tackling those numbers is a job for the police and the DVLA. The most advisable thing you can do to try and keep yourself safe is simply drive carefully and considerately. As for us, we’ll stick to doing what we do best – getting you the very best price for your scrap car.

If you’re considering scrapping your written-off vehicle with us, get an instant online quote today! It’s free, and there’s zero obligation until you decide you’re ready to proceed. Just enter your car reg and postcode into the fields on our site, and within seconds you’ll be looking at your very own instant online quote. Ready to find out how much your car is worth?

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