Older Drivers Safer Reports IAM

Older drivers are as safe as drivers from all other age groups, according to research published today by the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists).

Contrary to widespread belief, the study shows experience counts in the drive for safer roads.  They 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 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 nine per cent of drivers but six per of driver casualties. This practical study found that where older drivers had slower reaction times, they used their experience on the road to compensate:

They drive at slower speeds on all occasions

They 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 surprising areas of concern:

Compared with other age groups, the eldest group appeared to stop short of the stop line at junctions and not look as often as others before pulling out.

Older drivers failed to look in their rear view mirrors as much as other age groups on the motorway.

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. Neck flexibility varied widely, with some older drivers as flexible as some in the youngest group

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.

In the light of this new report the IAM is calling for:

A government action plan for older drivers

More car manufacturers considering older drivers in vehicle design

Greater publicity to encourage health professionals to discuss driving

Better information for older drivers and their families

Online self-assessment tools for older drivers

Wider availability of voluntary on-road driving assessments

Better partnership working at a local level

IAM chief executive Simon Best 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 advise to keep
drivers fit for the roads.”

TRL principal human factors researcher Nick Reed said: “This study for IAM using TRL’s DigiCar simulator 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.”

Holding back the gears: The ageing process and driver safety can be viewed here: IAM The Aging Process

The study was undertaken by TRL on behalf of the IAM. There were thirty-two participants, eight from each of the following age groups: 17-26 year olds, 34-55 year olds, 64-74 year olds, 75+ year olds. The sample size reflects the in-depth nature of the research with the tasks taking a number of hours.

IAM recommends the following to older drivers:

Older drivers should have a regular check up with their doctor to ensure that they are still fit to drive safely.

Your eyesight may not be as sharp as it used to be. Deterioration can be quite slow and you may not realize that you vision isn’t as good as it ought to be for safe driving. A regular check up with a qualified optician is very important for older drivers. If you wear glasses, check that they are suitable for driving.

Arthritis or stiffness will restrict your movements and your ability to make effective all round observations and can also affect your vehicle handling skills. There are special accessories designed to meet the needs of older drivers. You may find that exercises by your doctor can also help.

Tiredness or stress affects your ability to concentrate. Think carefully before deciding to make long journeys and plan to drive on routes that will minimize stress and fatigue. Take a twenty-minute break from driving every two hours, even if you don’t feel tired. Some exercise and light refreshments during the break can
help too.

Driving safely requires good awareness. Observation errors and misinterpretation of information are common factors in crashes involving older drivers. Reaction times get slower with age. Be prepared to make adjustments when age-related changes affect your driving performance.

Keep up to date with changes in the Highway Code. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

The IAM is the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, dedicated to improving standards and safety in driving, motorcycling and cycling. The commercial division of the IAM operates through its occupational driver training company IAM Drive & Survive. The IAM has more than 200 local volunteer groups and over 100,000 members in the UK and Ireland. It is best known for the advanced driving test and the advanced driving, motorcycling and cycling courses. Its policy and research division offers advice and expertise on road safety.

More at IAM


redkite    on 2 December 2012

I recently discovered my local authority can arrange a 2 hour driving assesment for drivers over 70 for £10. The examiner was a fully qualified instructor for both cars and HGV's and the test was very thorough with many different situations.
I got a good report except turning right I tended to cut the corners.
All local authorities should offer this sort of course for older drivers.
Well done Herefordshire Council !

sean    on 2 December 2012

Lol ! Are they on drugs? Last week I pulled my 82 year old farther in law out of a hotel garden after he launched the ' Volvo' through it's garden wall. Previous to this falling a sleep at the wheel and damaging every body panel on the car from parking incidents was a regular occurrence.
OAP drivers scare me!

petegeoff    on 3 December 2012

Just because your in-law has a problem doesn't all old people have one.

Fossil    on 3 December 2012

How about a report on how safe middle aged and young drivers are.

Andrew E    on 4 December 2012

A whooping 32 people tested!!!! Fairly representative then... Were any of these tests done in the dark, on congested motorways or with people who were not keen members of the IAM?

   on 4 December 2012

I fully endorse the advice given by the I.A.M. I have just received a letter and a gift from them as I have been a member for 50 years as a car driver and 30 plus years as a motorcyclist. I will be 70 years old in February and have been a pilot since the age of 24.
I have an aviation medical every 12 months & E.C.G. with no restrictions and eye sight test result far exceeds that required to drive a vehicle on the road. The moral here is that not all pensioners are past it. There is a saying among pilots that could be translated to car drivers as well. " There are old Pilots and bold Pilots but no old bold pilots."

richmc    on 4 December 2012

What a rediculusly flawed piece of research, the test sample was so tiny it competes with cosmetic adverts on TV! Now how about.

"They drive at slower speeds on all occasions"

Thereby causing frustration and dangerious overtaking by drivers who don't want to do 25MPH on a 60MPH road.

"They keep a bigger following distance than drivers from other age groups."

They are so slow they loose the traffic in front.

"the eldest group appeared to stop short of the stop line at junctions and not look as often as others before pulling out."

They probably don't see the point of looking as they are so far back they woudn't see anything anyway.

"Older drivers failed to look in their rear view mirrors"
That way they don't see the accidents they have caused.
Added to this is the fact (ROSPA data) accidents causing fatality to cyclists & motorcycleists are attributed to older drivers.
Older drivers stop at junctions/roundabouts where not obliged to even if no other vehicals are around, seem to have an inability to park without hitting other cars, and have no notion of what direction their car will head whilst reversing.

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