Stop demonising older drivers!
Stop demonising older drivers says IAM RoadSmart, driving into old age is good for staying independent and active
IAM RoadSmart is calling for an urgent debate on the best way to keep drivers safely behind the wheel into old age, in light of government figures that predict a four-fold increase in the number of drivers over 75 in the next 25 years.
The UK's leading road safety charity has been warning about the 'demographic time bomb' and challenging the demonising of older drivers by the media and public for a number of years.
And with latest figures showing there are now 2.5 million licence holders over 75 driving on UK roads, IAM RoadSmart is calling for clear and practical actions to help older people stay safe behind the wheel for as long as possible.
The charity believes encouraging more older drivers on the road makes a vital contribution towards keeping them healthy, active and independent.
A Swansea University study in 2016, alongside the DVLA's own statistics, highlighted that drivers over 70 are four times less likely to be involved in a road traffic incident than those aged 17 to 24.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy and Research, said: "Contrary to popular opinion the evidence is clear: older drivers remain one of the safest groups behind the wheel.
"So as the number of older people continues to expand at a significant rate, it's crucial that we face up to this growing issue and develop solutions that will enable older people to stay driving for as long as they are safe to do so."
The charity goes on to state that older drivers are safe for several reasons:
• They have many years of driving experience, which can compensate for less rapid reflexes
• They are much more cautious drivers, and so less prone to taking risks
• Most self-regulate by not driving at times and in places they do not feel comfortable, for example, when the weather is bad, when traffic is heavy, or in areas that are unfamiliar
• Few older drivers drink and drive or take illegal drugs, and most don't speed
Neil added: "Compulsory medicals and driving retests are an unnecessary action to take against a group who present no greater risk to themselves and others than other drivers. Today's 70-year-old is healthier and fitter than ever before. And there are now hundreds of thousands more of them.
"So, as the population ages, we want to see the driving licence renewal age raised to 75, accompanied by an eye test to ensure the individual remains capable of identifying and reacting to any potential hazards.
"GPs should also be able to prescribe a driving assessment where they think it appropriate and these, in time, could become compulsory for drivers over 85."
IAM RoadSmart also highlights a number of other policy improvements required to support the country's increasing numbers of older drivers:
• Better information is needed to allow older drivers and their families to continue to drive safely and ultimately to make the informed decision to give up when the time is right
• New online assessment tools have a key role to play in providing information and as a first step in the assessment process
• Awareness and uptake of voluntary driving reviews should be encouraged to equip older drivers with an independent assessment of their continuing capability and support them in their decision as to whether they remain safe behind the wheel
• Training and awareness of the issues affecting older drivers must be improved among the medical profession
• Car makers and road designers should take more account of the needs of older drivers in the future
• The government should show clear leadership in implementing these changes through partnership and cross departmental working
• Increase acknowledgement of the key role that driving plays in promoting independent living, mental and physical health and in cost savings for society as a whole
Neil concluded: "As a nation we need to accept that older drivers are here to stay and stop making assumptions of the kind we often see in the media and public opinion, where older drivers are demonised and openly criticised.
"We need to develop meaningful and practical solutions that help them stay independent and driving, for as long as they are safe to do so. Many of the tools to do this are already in place – we just need to make sure people know about them and feel comfortable using them."
IAM RoadSmart provides Mature Driver Reviews for any older driver who wants to ensure their confidence behind the wheel is well matched to their safety on the roads. Details are available at www.iamroadsmart.com/mdr
For further information and advice on issues related to older drivers visit www.iamroadsmart.com/olderdrivers.