Environment Minister Mark H Durkan yesterday indicated there are no plans to relax driving licence renewals for older people.
He spoke out after calls were made on the mainland to allow pensioners to drive until they are 80 before having to renew their licences.
Transport officials had urged ministers to relax the current mandatory renewal age of 70 to save money and to make the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) more efficient.
In a statement yesterday, the minister said: “One of the suggestions from a recent review of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is that the age limit for three-year renewals might be increased to 80.
“There is no mention in the review of introducing re-tests.
“As driver licensing is a devolved matter, it is for the department to decide if any changes are required in Northern Ireland, not for the Department for Transport [DfT].”
He added: “I will therefore keep evidence in this area under review to ensure an appropriate balance between road safety and the promotion of greater and safer mobility for older people, to help ensure that as many people as possible enjoy the benefits that safe and independent mobility can add to their quality of life.”
Backing the idea of maintaining the mandatory renewal age at 70 years, Pat Martin, 75, chair of the Road Safety Council of Northern Ireland, said: “I am 75 years, coming 76 years, and I am driving quite well.
“I have been driving since I was 17 years old.
“I feel that people would need to renew their licences before the age of 80 years because there is no doubt that you do slow down.
“In saying that there are all sorts of people with different health conditions in their 70s and 80s.
“But I feel I am still in control of the car and driving as well as I did in my earlier days.
“I also know some older drivers are very slow on the road and can cause problems, so having a medical check is worth thinking about.”
Mr Durkan said his department commissioned research in 2012 on the issue of road safety for older people.
It found that 70 is the age at which it appears “the driver risk exceeds that of the typical driver”.
He said it considered both mandatory re-testing on reaching a threshold age and re-testing at set intervals for all drivers.
“The study did not recommend pursuing either of these options,” he said.
Renewal every three years
At 70, Northern Irish drivers must renew their licence every three years.
According to the nidirect website, drivers are sent an application for a renewal of their licence two months before their 70th birthday.
DoE Minister Mark H Durkan said: “This is to provide for regular updates of the medical self-declaration in recognition that older drivers are more likely to have medical issues that might affect their fitness to drive.”
He added: “There is no requirement for anyone of any age to sit a re-test, unless ordered by a court.”