Road Safety News
 

Older driver refresher courses benefit all, says IAM

Tuesday 6th July 2010

The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) has welcomed the 2010 RAC Report on Motoring which finds that 84% of drivers aged 70 or over acknowledge the value of a refresher driving course.
 
Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “With ever-growing numbers of older drivers looking to stay safe and maintain independence, it is encouraging to see that there is a high degree of support for refresher courses.
 
“Older drivers have most of their crashes on high speed roads, particularly on slip roads and at junctions and roundabouts. Updating their skills to deal with these hazards and helping them to stay mobile for as long as possible should be the key aim of refresher courses.  The IAM provides a Drive Check 55 refresher course which specifically address these issues.
 
Neil Greig concludes: “The IAM does not support compulsory retesting or medicals as we believe they will force many perfectly safe drivers to give up driving too early. This loss of mobility makes them a far greater financial burden on society and less able to access services and support. 

“GPs need more training and information to help them advise patients on giving up driving and refresher courses.”
 
For more information contact the IAM press office on 020 8996 9777.

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Lisa gave me a refresher lesson yesterday, for which I cannot express enough thanks. Being over 70, and having returned from 8 years living in Spain, I really needed the confidence to get behind the wheel again. She was wonderful, so understanding and helpful. Thanks for the funding for this.
Janet Westgarth Pickering North Yorkshire

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Hi, thanks for sharing the information. I read your article and found many useful things and only saying thanks will just not be enough.
Driving School London, United Kingdom

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I get a bit bewildered by the older driver stats too. There rarely seems to be any exposure element. One example would be the demographics; e.g. in a town like (say) Eastbourne one might expect a higher proportion of older driver casualties, not because they are less capable but becasue there are more of them (apologies to Eastbourne if I'm indulging in easy stereotyping). Should be easy to check using MAST, which allows you to search by driver postcode and enables you to check on 'your' drivers having collisions elsewhere. Another example would be collisions/distance travelled; one might expect retired drivers to travel fewer miles (again I realise there are exceptions to this!) so that group having the same number of collisions as younger drivers (or even fewer) could indicate higher risk. I seem to recall that was the missing element from the IAM published research a while back. Not easy to collect that data, but worthwhile if we're spending lots of scarce money on re-training etc.
Mike, Birmingham

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Car drivers accounted for 34% of KSI’s in Dorset in the five years 2005 to 2009. 28% of those were aged 55 and over.

Dorset County Council’s Drive 55 Plus courses have become increasingly popular. The courses (theory and/or practical) are well received, being professionally delivered by experienced driving instructors.

One of the measures of success is to increase the number of drivers aware of/attending the courses – in 2008, 384 drivers attended the courses with 27% taking up the practical. In 2009 this rose to 1545 attending the course and 52% taking up the practical. Funding from partners, enabling us to take the course to more locations, and promotion through older peoples’ groups, GP’s and neighbourhood watch for example helped to achieve this 400% increase.

Evaluation from courses held in 2009 shows that 84% of the participants had never attended a driving course before.

Overall drivers considered the course very useful and the content appropriate. 99% of participants rated the course as either ‘useful’ or ‘very useful’. Of the topics covered, hazard perception, roundabouts and road signs were rated as the most useful.

Drivers were asked if, as a result of attending the courses, their attitude to driving would change. 88% of the participants stated that the course would change their driving behaviour, particularly realising that they should become better at recognising and dealing with hazards; taking more notice of what’s going on around them in order to deal safely with today’s road conditions.

These courses also act as an introduction to other ‘advanced’ driving courses, eg IAM, RoSPA.
Sue Virgin, Dorset

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Oxfordshire used to run a (free) morning seminar for older drivers at which we offered a free 1 hour assessment drive with an ADI to be taken at a later date. I think most people took us up on the offer. Most participants were extremely grateful for the opportunity to meet others with similar difficulties/problems and to be able to discuss how to get round these. For many it was the first time they had done any driving related learning since they passed their test - if they took one, that is! As I ran more of them I realised the social aspect was much more important than I had previously thought. Any (older) driver can book an assessment with an ADI for a skills test at any time if they are worried about their reaction times or ability to cope with modern traffic. This quote from one of our evaluation sheets sums up why I think we ought to offer a group session as well as the driving "test"/assessment. It was from a female who described herself before attending as "alone and afraid behind my wheel". At the seminar she realised she was not alone, that other people had the same problems as she did and that there were sources of help/support available to her. Sadly "Older & Wiser" has succumbed to budget constraints but I remain convinced it was a valuable experience for those who had it - and the evaluation sheets bear me out!
Mandy Rigault - Oxfordshire

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I am indebted to Honor of North Yorks for her enlightenment. Her comments take us beyond the road accident to the post collision trauma older people suffer and therefore it is a laudable cause to address this opportunity for altruism. There is a greater benefit from her deeper-thinking approach because we will all become members of the target audience sooner or later. This puts a facet on the issue that I had given scant regard. I said I needed help. Honor gave me it. Thank you.
Roy Buchanan Sutton

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Roy - your comments are always welcome and thought provoking, so I am sure we will all forgive your mis-spelling on this occasion!
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed

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Apologies to all my readers for spelling occasion wrongly, not once, but three times!! That's what happens when you do things in a hurry. No wonder I am a slow driver.
Roy Buchanan Sutton

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Well, here in North Yorkshire, older drivers, particularly those over 75 years are more frequently involved in collisions than they used to be - we have identified this as a statistical trend. When combined with our demographic projections for an increasingly aged population during the next 20 years (myself included!), this is a real issue. But it is more than data alone because older people are more likely to suffer a more serious injury as a result of a collision and the ability to recover from such injury is less good the older we get. Thus collision involvement is increasingly life changing as drivers age as well as costing the NHS and Social Care Services more to support post collision.
In a large, sparsely populated rural area, mobility is key for access to services, bus services are sparse and we have a policy of supporting rural communities and enabling people to remain independent for as long as possible. Hence we are investing in providing information and support to our older drivers as both reactive and proactive work.
North Yorkshire County Council also supports the re-testing of all drivers on the theory test and road traffic law and regulations once a decade as a practical way to ensure that every driver keeps their knowledge up to date once every ten years during which time there are inevitably many changes that they need to know. We did not consider this to infringe anyones rights, but as encouraging their responsibility as a road user.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

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I need help. Will someone tell me, is there a problem with older drivers or not? "Older people are not at high risk of being involved in a road accident" (DfT). "8% of drivers are over 70 yet they are only involved in around 4% of injury accidents" (IAM) "Older drivers are some of the safest on our roads" says the report. (RSGB) If this is true, why are we targeting this group of road user? Compare them with young drivers: 15% of drivers are 17 to 24 but involved in 34% of the accidents. Motorcyclists: 1-2% of the vehicle profile but involved in 18-20% of the accidents. If our profession is statistics-driven, intelligence-led, why all these schemes for older drivers? Is it because they are fashionable, in the news or socially accessible. In other words, window-dressing. Look at Neil Greig's comments above. He talks of "upgrading their skills" to deal with high speed roads, slip roads, junctions and roundabouts. Have they not been dealing with these all their driving lives? Let me end with trivia. The news feature above shows the IAM logo in green, the Institute's logo for its motorcycling members. I am one of them and have my 70th birthday on the horizon yet still ride a motorcycle almost every day. In the last 20-odd years I have been knocked off my bike twice. On one occasion I was stationary at traffic lights and suffered a rear-end shunt. On the other occasion, at very slow speed thankfully, a driver change lanes without any mirror or signal first. On both occasions the driver was a young woman. Let's target young women shall we or should we target the old man on the motorbike, get him retested, make him take a medical?
Roy Buchanan. Sutton

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