Study suggests older motorists are not more dangerous than younger drivers

It isn’t just young drivers who have a reputation for being dangerous behind the wheel; elderly motorists also get tarred with the same brush, albeit for different reasons.

However, new research unveiled in a presentation at the British Science Festival suggests older drivers are no more dangerous on the roads than younger motorists. This is despite them being more likely to die or be seriously injured in an accident, the Guardian reports.

It has long been debated whether the elderly should take to the roads, with the arguments that they are more likely to have a range of health conditions and slower reaction times.

However, the new research has highlighted recent studies that go against the idea that dangerous driving is linked to older age.

Leader of the work, Charles Musselwhite of Swansea University, said: “We live in an ageing society – older people are more fit and healthy than ever before, so they are much more likely to be mobile.

“The question arises: if we are having more and more older people and they are driving a higher number of miles, are they safe to do so?”

Musselwhite argues that an increase in frailty is the most likely reason why older drivers are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in road accidents.

However, the research suggests that there is an increased likelihood for older drivers to have an accident involving a right hand turn, with 13% of drivers over 70 having such an accident, compared to 7% of those under 70.

But Musselwhite believes this could be a result of older drivers feeling flustered by time pressure.
He explained: “What we find is when you do it on a desktop-based simulator, people over the age of 65 do take longer to make the decision to turn right.”

When participants were put under pressure during the computer simulation, they then made a mistake. According to Musselwhite, this discovery suggests accidents occur as a result of feeling under pressure.
Head of external communications at the RAC Foundation, Philip Gomm, also noted that elderly motorists were often seen in a negative light.

 “Older drivers often get a bad rap, as they actually tend to be some of the safest people on the road,” he said.

“They often self-regulate and avoid where they feel uncomfortable, such as driving during the rush hour, at night or on motorways.”

The Department for Transport’s figures from March of this year revealed there were 4.5 million people in the UK aged 70 or over with a full driving licence, 236 of whom were 100 years old or over.

Current rules require motorists to renew their licence when they turn 70, and every three years after then.
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