Driving their own car is important to older people, with nearly 70% of households where someone is over 70 have their own car. In July, the DVLA announced that for the first time, the number of driving licences held by people over 90 had surpassed 100,000. But the numbers who at that age had given up driving, perhaps because of diminishing cognitive skills or poor eyesight, and the numbers who were restricting their driving because they did not want to drive in the dark, in poor weather, on motorways or in the rush hours will have been considerable. Such avoidance behaviour, and especially in areas with poor public transport options, can constrain the social engagement and inclusion of older people, reducing their resilience and independence. There will be a knock-on effect on their sense of wellbeing, which in turn can lead to loneliness and a declining appetite for life, and perhaps on to depression. Continue reading “Driverless cars – the Flourish project”
This report from the Road Safety Foundation was recently published after a comprehensive two-year research project. Its findings are objectively based, and its recommendations are constructive. Above all, it takes the line that for many older people, driving is a key to their remaining socially active and engaged, and we must sustain that, and reject any wild accusations that older drivers are inherently a menace. Continue reading “Supporting Safe Driving into Older Age”
On 26 June, Age UK is supporting a free conference at the Mobility Roadshow looking at how we can improve road safety for older drivers. Joe Oldman, Age UK’s Consumer and Community Policy Advisor, explains the current issues in the older driver debate.
For many of us, continuing to drive as we get older is essential – a car may determine our ability to remain active and independent. The thought of having to give up driving can be distressing, especially in places where alternative forms of transport are limited or non-existent.
Challenging the myths about older drivers
With an increase in older drivers, there is growing concern about the implications for road safety. Media coverage about older drivers and safety can be unhelpful or even insulting – dealing in lazy stereotypes rather than considering the evidence. The vast majority of older drivers, with many years of experience, are often safer than younger drivers. Those drivers aged 75 and over make up 6% of all licence holders, but account for just 4.3% of all deaths and serious injuries on the road. By contrast, drivers aged 16-20 make up just 2.5% of all drivers but 13% of those killed and seriously injured.
We have all seen the caricatures of dangerous older drivers in the headlines. They often lurch towards the discriminatory assumption that people’s ability to drive stops on their 70th birthday.
But we are also likely to know of someone, a family member or friend, that should think about changing their driving.
The benefits of continuing to drive almost go without saying – it is available at any hour, provides door-to-door transport and is often seen as a symbol of independence. Research shows that many older people see the loss of a driver’s licence as a major stressful life event.
It is clear that we need to go beyond the headlines and have a sensible debate about what road safety means for people in later life.
Understanding road safety statistics
If you look at road safety statistics younger and older people are overrepresented in casualty statistics and causing crashes. This is central to the question of how safe older people are on the road.
First we need to be clear about the scale of the problem. That is to what extent do these trends increase over the age of 70.
Research from IAM found that although 8 per cent of drivers are over 70, they are involved in only around four per cent of injury crashes; whereas of the 15 per cent of drivers who are in their teens and 20s, 34 per cent are involved in injury crashes. Suggesting that the risk of older drivers being involved in an accident is in fact relatively small.
However, we also need to understand where the risk lies when there is an accident.
A recent report from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, It’s my choice, brought together a range of research on older drivers and transport, concluding they were not ‘a risk’ to other road users.
Rather they found that older drivers were putting themselves “at risk”.
The research suggest that, particularly for drivers over the age of 80, the increase in the number of casualties relates to their increasingly frailty, which makes people more vulnerable to injury in an accident.
The Department for Transport have reported that older people are between two and five times more likely to be killed or suffer a serious injury as a result of any road accident than a younger person.
This is not to say that we should carry on driving regardless.
For instance, some medical conditions will affect your driving and you should discuss this with your GP.
You might be concerned about bad habits or have lost confidence behind the wheel. In this case you should think about taking a refresher course. You may just want to pick the times you drive, such as leaving the car at home in bad weather.
When it comes to driving everyone is responsible, at whatever age, for making sure they are safe on the road. The emphasis should be on supporting older people to continue driving safely so that older people retain their ability to get out and about.