Older driver safety in the spotlight

11.49 | 21 January 2019 | | 10 comments

The collision last week involving the Duke of Edinburgh has sparked much debate about the safety of older drivers – with contrasting responses from road safety stakeholders.

While RoSPA describes age as a ‘red herring’ and ‘a completely arbitrary and unreliable measure for assessing someone’s ability to drive’, IAM RoadSmart issued a call for the Government to ‘put action behind their words’, in terms of doing more to improve the safety of older drivers.

Talking to BBC News, the AA pointed out that younger drivers are much more likely to crash in their first six months of driving than older drivers are in the final six months before they retire from driving.

The 97-year-old Duke was involved in a two-car collision on the A149 on 17 January. While his Land Rover Freelander landed on its side, thankfully no-one was seriously injured.

In November 2018, there were 5.3m over-70s – and 110,790 people aged 90 years or over  – with full driving licences in Britain, according to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (BBC News).

In terms of collisions, a DfT factsheet published in May 2018 says that older car drivers (70+ years) have a ‘slightly lower casualty rate’, given distance travelled, compared to all car drivers.

Older drivers – stakeholders’ viewpoints
RoSPA has spoken out in favour of older drivers, saying that statistically, they have fewer collisions than other age groups.

Nick Lloyd, acting head of road safety for RoSPA, said: “In the wake of the incident, we have inevitably heard calls for mandatory testing of people of a certain age.

“This is a red herring – age is a completely arbitrary and unreliable measure for assessing someone’s ability to drive. Statistically, older drivers have fewer accidents than other age groups.

“If we were to restrict drivers based on any relationship between age and accident rates, we would need to take a fresh look at inexperienced, younger drivers aged 17 to 24.”

Taking a similar stance, the AA says that while high profile car crashes involving elderly drivers often spark calls for bans or restrictions – it is younger drivers who pose more of a risk.

Edmund King, president of the AA, told BBC News: “Young, predominantly male, drivers are much more likely to crash within six months of passing their test than older drivers within six months of hanging up their keys.

“Older drivers often self-restrict their driving by not driving at night and only driving on familiar roads.”

Meanwhile, IAM RoadSmart has called for the Government to do more to improve the safety of older drivers – while also calling for the age of licence renewal to be raised to 75 years.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “The Government’s own road safety priorities highlight the need to do more for mature drivers and on rural roads.

“We support these priorities, and call for the Government to put action behind their words.

“While every driver is different, we support the findings of the Older Driver Task Force that the age of licence renewal be raised to 75 but with evidence of an eye test also required.

“We would also like to see more encouragement for drivers of all ages to take voluntary driving reviews to help them make informed choices about their driving skills.”



Comment on this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Report a reader comment

Order by Latest first | Oldest first | Highest rated | Lowest rated

    Agreed and also some motorcyclists don’t stay on their own side of the road. Some of them will be Advanced Riders and trained to do so.

    However my previous statement was specifically aimed at HGV drives and identifying a dangerous driving practise on minor country roads

    Further Hugh,before you mention it, so many other vehicle drivers tailgate also and not just HGV’s

    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    Car drivers do that as well Bob and there’s far more of them than lorries and the consequences will be no less devastating!

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    As an older driver and motorcyclist I have a greater amount of leisure and go for ride outs to local cafes etc. One such road that I frequent is in the country and as is the norm its a 60 mph road. However parts of it should be taken more sedatelly at around 35 to 40 mph and some bends even slower down to 20 mph sometimes. This road is single carriageway both ways and the width for each way is no more than 8ft. So suitable for a car and perhaps more suitable for a biker like myself.

    It’s a road regularly used by truckers going to and from small port and as we know the trucks are almost 8 ft wide. So taking account a distance of say 1 to 2 ft from the nearside hedges the trucks will probably be over the middle lines all the time and perhaps considerably more so on some bends.

    Finally you can imagine at what speeds these truck drivers drive at. Hell for leather as fast as they can around this narrow winding road and beware if you find one coming from the opposite direction. It’s a case of slow and stop, head for the kerb and the hedgerow, close one’s eyes and wait for the impact.

    Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

    Quoting from former lorry driver Steven Fraser’s comment “When you come around a corner at 40mph and your vehicle weighs a little over 40 tonnes you have a split second to react…” Very dramatic but..isn’t the lesson here to give yourself far more than a ‘split second’ to react, by er..NOT going around a corner at 40mph in a 40 tonne vehicle?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

    Stephen I notice that you did not mention Tailgating which some, not all elderly people do, but in fact more younger drivers do. Maybe they are following the dangerous example of lorry drivers who apparently believe that staying some 20 ft behind another lorry at 56 mph is a safe practise. Maybe they are expecting to actually hit that lorry in front in the event of an emergency and thus that lorry in front will definitely help them stop.

    Ever heard of pot calling kettle black. I suggest that the haulage industry puts its own house in order first and not criticise or lay blame on others.

    Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

    As a now ex lorry driver I’ve had many many issues with older drivers and would like to see them tested on a regular basis including eye sight and reaction time and general health. Doctors should have a responsibility to report any issues with anyone of a certain age. Not all elderly people have any issues with driving but many do.

    I think a driving simulator would be a great idea as technology has moved on and there machines are a safe way to test people. Ship captains and airline pilots have to be checked on a regular basis car technologies have moved on since the days of the horse and cart.

    Many elderly people buy new cars and are left alone to drive them without anyone going through the technology that’s now built in to them and you can see we’re people get confused and frustrated with new vehicles and how road rage kicks in.

    As a lorry driver for over 20+ years I’ve had 4 people die in my arms in road accidents 2 due to ill health and 2 through them making a mistake and I’ve stopped a few doing stupid things because in there words I didn’t realise that vehicles go so fast and I thought it was ok to do a u-turn there and that was on blind corners.

    When you come around a corner at 40mph and your vehicle weighs a little over 40 tonnes you have a split second to react it’s either hitting them and possibly killing them or putting your lorry of the road to prevent this so reaction time is a must. I would also like more training into how to respect larger vehicles and the space they need to operate like on roundabouts turning left or right and not sneaking down the side of them as one little mistake could kill you. Also young people driving cars that are far too fast for them a wee look at New Zealand and Australia driving rules wouldn’t go a miss.

    Remember not all elderly drivers are bad just a few that as they say back in the day before we had tests. Be safe.

    Steven Fraser, Elgin moray
    Agree (0) | Disagree (4)

    If anything, this incident reinforces my view that the system of priorities we use on our roads, which effectively gives carte blanche to motorists travelling on the “major road” to treat traffic attempting to emerge from side roads with utter contempt, needs an urgent review.

    Our roads should not be tuned so that only the the elite, fit and healthy, and always-alert drivers can use them safely. They should tolerate the typical mix of all abilities and frailties present in our population, including the full range found in all people from the very young to the very elderly, using all modes including pedal cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians.

    Charles, Wells
    Agree (7) | Disagree (5)

    One of the problems is that insurance companies like all the reports and organisations lump the age group of over 70’s from 70 to 100 year olds, a 30 year age range’ as one block unit but talk about other age groups as only being a period of 5 or 10 years its no wonder they get it all wrong when making comparisons. In truth the 70 to 80 group are likely to have fewer collisions per capita as the group aged from 40 to 50 year old. They are certainly involved in far less collisions than the younger age group of 17 to 24.

    It’s also a fact that some insurance companies put a premium on those 70 plus who drive or ride motorcycles in the mistaken belief that they are at greater risk. The actual risk is that the older one gets the poorer ones health can become and more problems may be associated with recovery. That means that more elderly, that’s the 70 to 100 year olds group can die following an injury. This is either from those injuries sustained or from complications arising or none related health matters.

    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

    Surely it is not about age but about ageing. I remember a presentation that looked at the ability of children to detect vehicle speeds by the looming of the vehicle. It gradually increased pre-teens but was not reliable till their teens.

    But the same tests had been done on other ages and showed a fall off in perceptual sensitivity for older drivers above 70. This was also reflected in an IAM report from 2010 showing the number of drivers involved in KSI crashes entering a main road increased with age above 70.

    Comparison with crash rates for younger drivers should really take into account the miles travelled. If elderly drivers are curtailing their journey frequency and distance yet showing the same propensity to crash then surely this indicates a higher risk per mile travelled.

    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

    The interest seems to be the age only of the Duke of Edinburgh, but no mention of the age group of the other driver involved in the collision – young? old? somewhere in between? Their ability to have avoided the collision (or not) may (or may not) have been anything to do with their age.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (7) | Disagree (3)

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.