Supporting safe driving into old age24 Nov 2021

RAC Foundation backs findings of Older Driver Task Force

The RAC Foundation has welcomed a new report into older drivers and supports its recommendations.

The study from the Older Driver Task Force found that:

• Older drivers (70+) do not pose a significant risk to other road users, but their relative frailty means that they are over-represented in serious crashes – particularly those over 80
• For drivers over 80, the rate of being killed or seriously injured, per licence held, is as high as for those aged 21-29
• Serious injuries among the young reflect inexperience; for older drivers it’s about their fragility
• We have an ageing population so expect huge increases in licences held by older drivers
• So older driver deaths will increase if we do not take decisive action now
• Car driver deaths in the 70-79 age group are forecast to increase by 40% over the next 20 years, and by more than a quarter in the 80+ age group

The task force – funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) and on whose steering board the RAC Foundation sat – says a target of reducing deaths and serious injuries for drivers over 70 by 50% by 2050 is key to protecting this age group.

Latest DfT figures show there are 5.7 million people in Britain aged 70 and over with a full driving licence, including 489 who are at least 100.

Other proposals in the report – Supporting Safe Driving into Old Age – include:

  • introducing mandatory eyesight testing with an optometrist or medical practitioner providing a driver ‘MOT’ of eyesight at licence renewal at the age of 70 and at further renewals;
  • a programme of making T junctions safer – a notorious risk-point for older drivers;
  • immediate research into the impact of physical and cognitive medical conditions, including diabetic peripheral neuropathy, that may contribute to pedal confusion;
  • standardised content for Driving Appraisals and certified and trained instructors to assist older drivers;
  • and a national roll-out of an alternative to prosecution for careless driving for older motorists.

Careless driving includes such behaviour as: driving through a red light by mistake, driving too close to another vehicle and unnecessarily staying in an overtaking lane.

The report also says vehicles could be further adapted to reflect the needs of older drivers such as doing more research into restraint systems which might use split buckle or crisscross seat belts in recognition of the frailties of elderly car occupants.

The Older Drivers Task Force was originally commissioned in 2016 to make its recommendations, acknowledging the importance of people living an active and healthy life into older age, and that age itself does not give an indicator of how fit a person is to drive. The aim is to support older drivers to continue to drive while they are still safe to do so.

Today’s report is published by the Road Safety Foundation which led the Task Force.

The following organisations and individuals made contributions to the work of the Task Force and its members are in broad agreement with its findings • Autoliv • Rob Heard • Kit Mitchell • Department for Transport (Observer and Funder) • DVLA (Observer) • Hadstrong PR • Bert Morris • Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety (PACTS) • RoadSafe • Professor Steve Taylor • Elizabeth Box, RAC Foundation • Brian Morgan – CAMC • Dr. Carol Hawley – Warwick University • Keya Nicholas • Lisabeth Miles • Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart • Nick Lomas • Peter Grayner • Rob Needham – RoSPA • Professor Dilwyn Marple-Horvat – Manchester Metropolitan University