Older drivers ‘no more of a safety risk on roads than young motorists’

Older drivers ‘no more of a safety risk on roads than young motorists’
Elderly drivers do not pose a greater risk to safety on the roads than younger motorists, research has found.

It is thought that as drivers age, their ability behind the wheel is hampered by health problems and slower reaction times.

But according to a study carried out by Swansea University’s Centre for Innovative Ageing, older drivers often counteract these factors by showing more care when in their vehicle.

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Previous suggestions that older drivers should have to retake their test to make sure they are fit for the roads have also been rejected by the research.

It found that males aged between 17 and 21 are three to four times more likely to crash than men or women in their 70s or over.

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Despite this, older people are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in road accidents because of their fragility rather than their driving ability, the study found.

Speaking at the British Science Festival, which is being held in Swansea this week, Dr Charles Musselwhite said that real or imagined pressure makes older people commit errors on the roads.

But he went on: “The solution to this and also any cognitive changes associated with ageing including changes in working memory, attention and cognitive overload is to drive slower and at certain times of day.”

The latest figures from the Department for Transport show that there are around 4.5 million people aged 70 or over in the UK with a full driving licence – 230 of whom are 100 year old or over.

At the moment, motorists in the UK have to renew their licence when they turn 70 and every three years after, informing the DVLA that they are still able to drive safely.

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They can also take advantage of initiatives designed to help extend their driving lifetime by having their skills independently assessed by organisations such as the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

The Swansea University study also argued that older people stopping driving may actually speed up their death. It says that while pensioners make up just 19% of pedestrians, they account for 40% of pedestrian deaths.

The RAC Foundation said it welcomed the study.

Philip Gomm, from the motoring research charity, said: “Older drivers often get a bad rap as they actually tend to be some of the safest people on the road.

“They often self-regulate and avoid situations where they feel uncomfortable such as driving during the rush hour, at night or on motorways.

“If you go by the statistics, then it is road users at the other end of the age spectrum that society would be better off helping stay safe.

“People have a responsibility to ensure they are fit to be behind the wheel throughout their driving lives and we do not support compulsory retesting at an arbitrary age.”

Copyright Press Association 2016. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.