Swansea University has published new research challenging the idea that older people are more dangerous drivers.
An analysis of vehicle accidents showed that drivers aged 70+ were actually involved in 3-4 times fewer accidents than those in the 17-21 age bracket.
Older drivers were shown to make most mistakes with right turns and overtaking resulting in small impact collisions, but those younger in age were more likely to cause single-vehicle incidents due to driving too fast and losing control.
The safest age bracket was those in their 40s, so whilst the over 70s were more likely than them to be involved in an accident, they were still less likely than younger drivers. However, the older drivers did tend to feel more pressure from other road users, and made more mistakes as a result.
The most accident-prone age group was young men – by a long way! However, those aged over 75 did show an increased incident level, believed to be caused by physical frailty. Older women drivers were shown as most likely to have an accident during a tight manoeuvre, and older drivers tend to be involved in incidents with other older drivers; as they make the same kind of driving errors.
That said, the study showed that those 70+ were more careful drivers – driving slower, leaving larger gaps, and choosing better weather and quieter times to drive in.
Programmes and tests conducted in Australia and Denmark have re-tested older drivers, but seen little improvement in road safety. At the moment, in the UK, there is no requirement to re-test. Older people have been shown to give up driving instead due to financial reasons; particularly with insurance costs.
Professor Musselwhite, who was behind the research, said “a lot of existing infrastructure doesn’t work all that well for the elderly”. He suggested that dedicated filter arrows for right turns across traffic, or wider lanes, could help. But he noted that this might inhibit traffic flow, or even encourage young drivers to drive faster.
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Author Lex Barber