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.”