We have all experienced the reduced driving ability of an elderly relative. As our grandparents get older – so do their ability to be safe on the roads. This is something that concerns us all, and poses the question as to how to stop them from driving…?
On the Arrive Alive Road Safety website we have given attention to this topic in a section titled “Road Safety and the Elderly / Older Road Users”. This section focuses on the health and safety risks – and not on the financial impact that might result from accident claims and increased car insurance premiums.
It is true that the cost of car insurance for the elderly sharply increases later in their lives.
Kelly Green, in an article in the Wall Street Journal summarizes this position rather neatly as follows:
“If there is compelling evidence that parents shouldn’t be on the road—because of failing eyesight or other physical limitations—then adult children shouldn’t want them to drive. People who are 75 and older have higher crash rates per mile than all groups except 16- to 25-year-olds, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Many states require older drivers, starting in their 60s or 70s, to renew their licenses more frequently than younger drivers, to do so in person or to take additional vision tests. Still, health and driving skill can deteriorate between those renewal dates.”
But why are the car insurance premiums so expensive and are the elderly road user such a concerns for road safety authorities? Perhaps the best answer is to be found in a few facts and numbers for the Arrive Alive website:
- As the elderly are less agile and resilient, the likelihood of being killed as a pedestrian is more than twice that for younger adults.
- Every fifth person killed on roads in Europe is aged 65 or over – it is estimated that by 2050 one death out of three will be an elderly person, if their safety level does not improve.
- The elderly are more likely to be severely injured or killed in a crash. The fatality rate of the 65-74 year olds is about twice that of the 30-64 year olds. The fatality rate even is eight times higher for the over-75s.
- With the same impact force, the death rate is approximately three times higher for a 75 year old motor vehicle occupant than for an 18 year old. The physical vulnerability has the severest consequences during ‘unprotected’ journeys such as walking and cycling.
- Older drivers find it more difficult to judge the speed and intentions of other drivers. From the age of around 45 most of us need glasses to see well either at a distance, close up or for both. For example, by around the age of 60 our eyes will normally require three times more light to see as well as when we were aged 20.
- The fatality rate of elderly drivers is considerably lower than that of elderly cyclists and pedestrians.
- The death rate is particularly high for elderly cyclists.
It is important for family members to be alert to the driving behaviour of parents – and to assist in convincing them at the right time that it is best to stop driving. How can family members assist the elderly road user?
- Family members and physicians should be proactive in ensuring the safety of their loved ones on the road, especially if they are afflicted or impaired with a condition that may hinder driving abilities.
- Friends should flag a friend who might be driving unsafely and pose a risk to other road users
- Family members might be in the best position to convince the elderly to go for a medical assessment and check on the important physical abilities required for driving
It is also important not only to remove the keys – but to be pro-active in organizing other transport and to assist in maintaining the mobility of the elderly road user. This includes the process of seeking accommodation where transport is less of a requirement or reducing the need to travel to shopping centres far away!
We would like to urge all the family members of elderly road users to also view:
Road Safety and the Elderly / Older Road Users