Our thoughts on recent report on driving and the aging population
A recent report from the RAC Foundation tackled the subject of the older driver and maintaining their mobility. Entitled “Maintaining safe mobility for the aging population” it covered a number of human factors issues in relation to car design and the design of road signage.
This comprehensive report stands aside from the fear that old drivers kill people and cause others to have accidents. It starts by assuming that the benefits of mobility apply at least as much to older people as to anyone else and looks at older drivers’ habits as well as their accident rates. The question seems to be “Why shouldn’t we impose special rules on older drivers” rather than “Older drivers are less safe – should we limit them?”
There is a careful (and exhaustive) study of actual accident rates involving older drivers, showing that their accident rate is little higher than other drivers and way below that of young, inexperienced drivers. Accident rate per mile driven is higher, but older people drive less, so the actual number of accidents is low. The studies included comparison of differing driver legislation in other countries to evaluate the effects of the law and national culture. It seems that more limiting legislation, as applied in some sountries does not improve road safety significantly – it only limits personal freedom.
A criticism might be that the report doesn’t successfully quantify the contribution of older people’s driving to other drivers’ accidents.
It is interesting to note that older people are more frail than younger people, so accidents to them tend to be more serious; and that if forced on to buses or walking, older people are likely to have more accidents.
The message is simple: Keep older people driving if practicable – it helps to sustain their independence, which is really important for everyone.