Older drivers - Safe or unsafe?
The world's population is aging rapidly, with implications in numerous areas, not the least of which is that the number of male drivers over the age of 70 will double in the next 20 years, and the number of female drivers over 70 will treble. Does this pose a greater risk on the roads? A new in-depth report released today by the UK's IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists contradicts the common assumption that older drivers are a danger on the roads, comprehensively proving that drivers over 70 are no more likely to cause crashes than any other driver, and are indeed, considerably safer than younger drivers.
The report shows that older drivers are safer than young drivers. Just eight per cent of drivers are currently over 70 years of age, and they are involved in around four per cent of injury crashes; fifteen per cent of drivers are in their teens and twenties but are involved in 34 per cent of injury crashes.
Age-related decline in mental and physical abilities can make older drivers more prone to certain types of crash though, and this is exacerbated by age-related frailty which makes older drivers more vulnerable to serious injuries. An elderly person’s risk of being killed or suffering a serious injury as a result of a road crash is between two and five times greater than that of a younger person because of their increased physical frailty. However, the IAM analysis pinpoints no particular age at which an older driver’s functioning and skills suddenly deteriorate to the point where driving becomes too difficult or unsafe.
Older people rely heavily on their cars, and the ability to drive gives many older people better mobility and access to more activities. Men in their seventies make more trips as car drivers than men in their late teens and 20s.
“The IAM recommends that, rather than seeking to prevent older people from driving, we need to make them aware of the risks they face, and offer them driving assessments to help them cope with these risks.” said Neil Greig, IAM's Director of Policy and Research.
"The IAM strongly believes that there is no case for compulsory retesting of older drivers at an arbitrary age. More research is needed on the best age to renew driving licences and there needs to be a wider debate on the introduction of restricted licensing,” said Mr Greig.
Other key findings of the report include:
- Drivers over 70 are safer on bends and overtaking than 50 year olds, but are more at risk at roundabouts, junctions and slip roads on high speed roads.
In some traffic situations, older drivers are less likely to be in a crash because they tend to adopt a more careful and restrained driving style.
No particular age was identified where there is sudden increase in crash involvement.
Older drivers self regulate and take fewer trips on motorways, in poor light or wet weather, or at peak times.
Drivers over 85 are four times more likely to have caused a crash than to have been an innocent victim of one.
Crashes in which older women are to blame peak about five years earlier than those for older men.