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Making older drivers safer for longer

Leading road safety experts have recommended raising the mandatory fitness to drive self-declaration for licence renewal from 70 to 75 years old - if proof of an eye sight test is made compulsory.

The recommendations are made by the Older Drivers Task Force inSupporting Safe Driving into Old Age,a report setting out a national older driver strategy. The Task Force, which was welcomed by Government, was managed by the Road Safety Foundation and supported by Ageas, the third largest motor insurer in the UK and a leading insurer of older drivers.

More than 25 experts and organisations in transport, health, policing, licensing, car manufacturing and insurance collaborated to produce the report, led by Chairman John Plowman. Analysing the latest international evidence, available technology and road safety schemes, the Task Force makes seven key recommendations for government and other stakeholders.

The emphasis is for government and industry to work together to ensure older drivers can stay on the road and enjoy independent lives for as long as it is safe to do so. 

Recommendations include:

  • Raising the automatic requirement for drivers to notify the DVLA at age 70 of any medical condition affecting driving to 75 - if the requirement for an eye sight test is made compulsory
  • Requiring the DVLA to get evidence of an eyesight test at licence renewal
  • Asking a consumer body to prepare specific advice on modern car safety features that are of special significance for older drivers - and consider "silver" NCAP-style assessment
  • Improving road design, signs and markings to meet the highest international standards specifically to aid older drivers but bringing benefits for all drivers
  • Evaluating existing driving appraisal courses and improving information provided to older drivers, their families, and medical professionals
  • Piloting new products which offer an alternative to driving for older people.
  • Pooling insurer data and research into major claims involving older drivers to understand the detailed causes.

The Older Drivers Task Force looked at the academic evidence base, the latest in vehicle, road and information technology, and reviewed best practice examples of support and self-help schemes. It is ready to work with the Government in the future on how best to implement these proposals.

Media contacts
For comment and interviews, Task Force Chairman, John Plowman:
0798 970 7107 -  johnplowman@john-plowman.com

Road Safety Foundation
Richard Rhydderch on 01256 345598 or 07776 147262 richard.rhydderch@roadsafetyfoundation.org

Ageas UK
Press Office:  023 8035 2754 or  07748 841874 press.uk@ageas.co.uk

Hadstrong
Becky Hadley 020 7808 7997 - becky.hadley@hadstrong.com                     

 

 

 

2 comments for “Making older drivers safer for longer”

  1. Gravatar of James CuthbertJames Cuthbert
    Posted Monday, July 04, 2016 at 9:49:03 AM

    My father is now 102, and gave up driving about years, when his hearing meant he could no longer hear the engine note. We suggested an automatic, but the change was too daunting.
    Your report, it seems to me, under estimates the rate of change in car technology. As a 62 year old who regularly hires cars, I have noticed an increasing variation in the controls of cars from and within different manufacturers, mostly in the name of "design", but also because of innovation. I now spend typically 15 minutes before driving off trying to understand the basics like windscreen wipers, lights, and heating/climate control. And that's before I try to tune the radio or hook up Bluetooth.
    I would recommend that all hire cars have automatic lighting, automatic windscreen wipers, and full climate control, as a basic safety requirement.
    I digress, back to the main theme.
    As your report notes, driver assistance and safety features are being introduced which offer support to the aged drivers. Many are transparent, in that the driver need do nothing to control them. Manufacturers need to ensure that the default settings are adequate for all age groups, so that the aged have nothing to learn, and are not surprised by the behaviour of the vehicle.
    I suspect your report underestimates the rate of progress of autonomous vehicle development, and the risks of partial autonomy, especially for the aged. Current reports, notably the death of the (non-) driver of a Tesla, show how difficult it is for humans to assess the risk of new technology. There was an edition of the BBC's Horizon many years ago, possibly entitled The Right Stuff,that showed the problems for airline pilots when the alarms go off, demanding the pilot's attention, when they have been out of the loop possibly for many hours. Car drivers face more frequent hazards, but the same risks of boredom and lack of attention.

    I would suggest that the incremental route to autonomous cars being taken by the mainstream manufacturers may make conventional safety sense, but from a human factors perspective, this approach poses increased risk of driver inattention, and unfamiliarity with the capabilities and behaviour of the vehicle.
    I suggest, for the aged in particular, we need to make the leap to fully autonomous as quickly as possible. We are already at, or possibly beyond, the point where semi-autonomous vehicles are safer than human drivers. I would welcome more support for a policy of expediting autonomous vehicles. For example, Google cars have a remarkable safety record.
    There are many non technical issues to be addressed, legal, insurance, road use priority, etc., that are more likely to delay a life saving, and hugely beneficial technology, notably for the aged.
    For what it's worth, my own long standing view has been that autonomous vehicles will change the pattern of ownership, as most of us will give up owning cars in favour of Uber like services delivered using autonomous vehicles. These operators will quickly look to optimise their margins by providing vehicles suitable for the demand, e.g. for single passenger journeys. Smaller lighter vehicles will save energy costs for the operators, and for climate change. The cost to the customer will drop dramatically, notably compared with public transport, but also with car ownership. And also to the public sector in terms of policing, health care, and transport infrastructure.
    We are on the cusp of the most dramatic change in transport. We could inch our way forwards or we could embrace and invest heavily in a new, safer, more efficient, transport future for all ages, but especially the aged.

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