Top tips for older drivers

As an experienced older driver, you’ve probably been driving accident-free for many years both when living abroad and in the UK. However, if you’re coming back home after a long period away, it wouldn’t do you any harm to take a read of some of our top tips for older drivers.

From checking if any new car is suitable for you and applying for a Blue Badge, to attending a refresher driving course and reminding yourself of the UK road rules and regulations, these are all tips well worth considering when starting your new life back in the UK.

And remember, when you’ve got settled in the UK you’ll want to make sure you’re financially protected if you get involved in an accident – that’s where car insurance for expats can help. Ask the helpful team at Insurance Factory for a quick quote today.

1.        Check your car is right for you

When heading back to the UK from abroad, many expat drivers will need to swap their left-hand drive European model for a right-hand drive British car. So, you’ll need to get reacquainted with buying a car in the UK. And checking your car’s service history and status is only one part of the equation.

It’s also important for an older driver to take any car for a test drive. That way you can see if you encounter any difficulties when driving. After all, not every car will be suitable for your particular needs.

There are many reasons why this could be so. For example, if you have begun to have joint pain or arthritis you might find it a suitable time to switch to an automatic car or one with power-assisted steering.

When test driving a car, check that you:
  • Have a good, clear view while driving. Performing manoeuvres, such as reversing, can be trickier in some cars.
  • Can see and operate all the driving instruments and controls.
  • Can push the pedals all the way down comfortably.
  • Can see the speedometer from your normal driving position.
  • Feel comfortable driving the vehicle.

Some difficulties can be easily sorted with minor adaptations to the car. Perhaps you could fit extra mirrors to aid all-round vision or install parking sensors. Even little tweaks to the driver’s seat could give a much more comfortable driving experience.

If your car doesn’t have an inbuilt sat nav system then it might be worth investing in one to help you get around. The roads may have changed beyond all recognition from when you were last here. And it gives you one less thing to think about when getting used to the UK roads again.

Not everyone who returns to the UK will be looking to drive a new car. If you’re one of the many van drivers returning to our shores then don’t worry. Our expat car insurance can cover your vehicles, too!

Whether you have a UK driving licence or an International driving licence, you can be sure Insurance Factory will source the right type of cover for you.

An older man driving his car with his wife

2.        Apply for or renew a Blue Badge

If you are disabled or have a health condition that affects your mobility then it’s worth applying for a Blue Badge.

If you have a Blue Badge you can park in places other drivers can’t, for example disabled parking spaces, and may even be able to park for free or for unlimited time. The Blue Badge is very useful as it is linked to you rather than a particular vehicle. Even if you’re travelling as a passenger in a taxi or in a hire car, you can still use it.

Citizens Advice has plenty of information on eligibility, how to apply, renewals and how to use your Blue Badge. Apply or renew online through the government website.

Blue Badges are reasonably inexpensive, costing up to £10 in England, £20 in Scotland and free in Wales. They’re usually valid for up to three years.

There are a range of health conditions that can affect your driving at any time of life. Be aware that in the UK it’s important any such health conditions are disclosed to the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

Read our guide on what health conditions can affect your driving  – you might be surprised at some of them!

3.        Go on a refresher course

Once you passed your driving test all those years ago you might have thought you’d seen the back of your driving instructor. But as an expat driver it might be worth digging out their number again!

After being away from the UK roads for a couple of years, even the most confident of drivers could benefit from a quick refresher course. After all, every country has its own quirks of driving and it’s all too easy to pick up bad habits when you’re away – you don’t want to get you into trouble with other UK drivers.

Refresher courses are a great way to provide additional training and support for expat drivers. Here are some useful courses you might want to consider:
  • The AA offers refresher lessons for those who are feeling a bit rusty when it comes to driving on UK roads. Whether you want to improve your night-time, all-weather, urban or rural driving, the AA is able to help.
  • The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) offers lots of training and a Mature Driver Review geared specifically towards older drivers. It’s a great way to renew your confidence and get a trusted second opinion.
  • Private driving instructors have a wealth of experience also helpful to older drivers. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has a list of approved driving instructors on their website.

4.        Brush up on your Highway Code knowledge

The Highway Code is regularly updated to reflect the ever-changing UK road network and driving laws.

It’s therefore important you keep up to date with the latest revisions so you don’t accidentally commit a driving offence. A driving conviction is the last thing you need when you’ve only just returned to the UK!

There have been significant changes over the years but there are some in particular it’s worth being aware of. Just as in the rest of Europe and around the world, significant new rules have been introduced to make it illegal for drivers to use their phone when driving (regardless of the reason for doing so).

Under the new rules, drivers can now face a fine of up to £200 and six penalty points for just holding a phone.

Another evolving area of the UK road system is that of so-called smart motorways. These are sections of motorway that aim to utilise traffic management techniques to boost capacity and cut congestion in busy areas.

Controversially this has sometimes involved turning the hard shoulder into an extra active or ‘live’ lane.
If you’ve not been driving in the UK for a number of years, any of these changes can take a bit of getting used to.

However, it’s your responsibility as a returning expat to be informed about any changes to UK roads. Ignorance of the law is never a defence.

Various road sign models

5.        Keep informed of any potential further changes

Road regulations are constantly being updated and tweaked and sometimes it can feel bewildering keeping up with them. For example, it was recently reported that the DVLA was considering new rules for drivers over the age of 70 with certain medical conditions.

Under current rules, when you hit 70 and have to renew your licence, sufferers from certain conditions can see their licence renewals declined, losing their ability to drive. A very worrying prospect indeed if you’ve only just returned to the UK and you don’t have quite the same social support structures  as you once did.

The reported discussions suggest that rather than a total loss of a licence you could be subject to limits. For example, you might only be allowed to drive during day-time hours. Or perhaps limited to only travelling within 20 or 30 miles of your home address.

6.         Get insured with expat car insurance

Whichever steps you take to prepare yourself for your return to the UK’s roads, you should make arranging expat car insurance a top priority.

Whether you’ve been driving the wide, straight highways of the US or the stunning coastal roads of Europe, Insurance Factory is here to help you return to UK driving.

At Insurance Factory, we’ve been tailoring insurance policies for over 20 years, so we’re perfectly placed to help you with your particular requirements.

From house moves to job relocations, returning to the UK isn’t always cheap. So, if you’re short of cash, we can also offer flexible payment solutions. This helps you spread the cost of your insurance with manageable monthly instalments.

We offer competitively priced cover which could include the following benefits:
  • Specialist cover available for expats returning from most EU/Commonwealth countries
  • Comprehensive level of cover available
  • Tailor your policy to your individual requirements

Call Insurance Factory for a quick quote for expat car insurance today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.