Road safety measures less effective for older drivers

IMPROVING safety for the increasing number of older drivers on the roads is vital to prevent their casualty rate also climbing, an advisory body will warn today.

IMPROVING safety for the increasing number of older drivers on the roads is vital to prevent their casualty rate also climbing, an advisory body will warn today.

The number of over-70s with a driving licence has quadrupled over the past 35 years, but their injury and death rates are not falling as fast as younger motorists, according to the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts).

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The reduction in deaths and serious injuries in cars over the past decade among 70- to 79-year-olds across Britain fell by 43 per cent and by 16 per cent for those aged 80 or over, compared with 54 per cent for all ages. Pacts said their relative frailty may be a factor, along with their increased trips.

The council urged England to follow the Scottish Government’s lead in highlighting the issue in its road safety blueprint.

The document, Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020, committed ministers to promoting further training for older drivers and raising awareness of how they could tackle their vulnerability on the roads.

Pacts said nearly 60 per cent of over-70s held a driving licence, compared with 15 per cent in 1975. The figure was even higher among 60 to 69-year-olds, at 80 per cent, who were expected to keep driving for another 20 years.

However, the report stressed older drivers were at risk to themselves rather to others. It added: “Driving should be made as safe as possible for as long as possible, through increased awareness and self-assessment and a national standard course available to all older drivers.”

The report also pointed out that while pedestrian deaths and serious injuries had fallen overall by 41 per cent between 2000 and 2010, the reduction for 60- to 69-year-old pedestrians was 37 per cent, for 70-79-year olds it was 40 per cent and for those 80 or over it was 33 per cent.

Pacts executive director Robert Gifford said: “Over the next decade, the balance of the population in this country will change. Older people need to be kept mobile and safe.”

Age Scotland spokesman Greg McCracken said: “There is no evidence older drivers are less safe. Proportionally, it is younger, male drivers who are most likely to cause pedestrian deaths.

“Rather than looking at older drivers in isolation, Age Scotland would argue that the behaviours and competence of drivers in all age groups should be examined to establish how we can best improve safety on our roads.”

Institute of Advanced Motorists chief executive Simon Best said: “Older people need their cars, which give them better mobility and access to more activities and services. Those who wish to continue driving beyond the age of 70 should only be prevented from doing so if there are compelling reasons.

“Rather than seeking to prevent older people from driving, we should make them more aware of the risks they face, and offer them driving assessments to help them eliminate bad habits. Driving helps older people play a full and active part in society.”