Older drivers are as safe as drivers from all other age groups, according to new research published by the IAM.
Contrary to widespread belief, the study, ‘Holding back the gears: The ageing process and driver safety‘, shows that older drivers have better attitudes to safety, deal with hazards better than young drivers and use experience to increase their safety margins on the road.
The report reveals that drivers aged over 75 react just as quickly as other age groups when a vehicle emerges from a side road or if the car in front brakes suddenly on a rural road.
Official statistics show that people over 70 make up 9% of drivers but 6% of driver casualties. The study found that where older drivers had slower reaction times, they used their experience on the road to compensate.
According to the study, older motorists drive at slower speeds on all occasions, and keep a bigger following distance than drivers from other age groups.
Whilst the study found little difference in driving performance across the ages it did highlight two areas of concern. Older drivers often appear to stop short of the stop line at junctions and not look as often as others before pulling out. And when driving on a motorway, they don’t use their rear view mirror as often as other drivers.
The report found that older drivers were likely to have less flexibility in neck movement and poorer vision standards but this did not translate into differences in driving performance.
The IAM believes it is important these findings are used in on-road and online assessments to ensure that older drivers understand the risks they face and what they can do to improve their driving in key areas.
Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: “The Government needs to create a strategy now to deal with the ageing driving population.
“Older drivers, their families and friends deserve access to assessment and information to help them stay safe on the road. As well as this, car makers need to look at innovative ways to use technology to help this growing sector and the medical profession has to improve the way it delivers support and advice to keep drivers fit for the roads.”
Nick Reed, TRL principal human factors researcher, said: “This study revealed that in many of the driving scenarios tested, older drivers were typically as safe as their younger counterparts.
“It was notable that performance was more varied across the older participants; seemingly reflecting differences in the ageing process and highlighting how difficult it is to make judgements about driving ability based solely on age. It was pleasing to identify specific areas of concern for older drivers and perhaps to correct some common misconceptions about their driving ability.”
For more information contact the IAM on 020 8996 9777.