Boom in Drivers over 70 - and They're as Safe as Youngsters!

Article excerpt

Byline: Ray Massey Transport Editor

THE number of older drivers will soar to record levels as the postwar 'baby-boom' generation reaches retirement, according to a report published yesterday.

By 2032 the number aged over 70 will have risen to 5.8million, and the total will include almost two million over 80, it says.

The increase continues a trend. In 1992, there were only 2.2million drivers over 70, but today there are 3.9million.

However, the report's authors insist that - contrary to popular belief - advancing years do not make even doddery drivers any more dangerous, and that the experience of age is a powerful counterbalance to the dangerous exuberance of youth.

Older drivers compensate for their advancing years, deteriorating eyesight and slower reactions by driving more carefully and with more experience than youngsters, says the report by the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

But the Government must prepare for the changes by including a 'national strategy for older drivers' as part of its road safety policy.

The report, called Holding back the gears - the ageing process and driver safety, was presented to road safety minister Stephen Hammond yesterday.

The study was carried out for the IAM by experts at the Transport Research Laboratory, who put 32 drivers of varying ages from 17 to 75-plus through a driving simulation test to check reactions. It found 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.

Where older drivers have slower reaction times they use their experience on the road to compensate. They drive slower and they keep a bigger following distance than drivers from other age groups. But older drivers appear to stop short of the stop line at junctions and not look as often as others before pulling out. They also fail to look in their rear view mirror as much as other age groups on the motorway.

And they are likely to have less flexibility in neck movement and poorer vision standards. But this did not translate into differences in driving performance. IAM chief executive Simon Best said: 'There is no doubt that older drivers get a bad press. They are an easy target for other motorists' frustrations. …