Elderly drivers safer than young drivers

It turns out, elderly drivers aren’t as bad on the road as we’re led to believe.

Older drivers are often criticised in the media, with near constant demands that anyone over the age of 70 should be forced to take their driving test again.

The reason is the stereotype that elderly drivers are dangerous on the road, whether that’s because of failing eyesight or slowing reaction times.

But new research from Swansea University shows that the stereotype of the dithery, old and dangerous driver is a false one.

According to the research, elderly drivers are no more dangerous behind the wheel than motorists as a whole, and they’re far safer on the road than young men too.

In fact, if old drivers were forced off the road, there would be an increase in ill health and depression among those who were no longer allowed to drive without making UK roads any safer, says Charles Musselwhite of Swansea University.

“My research suggests that while people think older people are dangerous on the road, they aren’t,” said Musselwhite.

“People also think testing old people will make the roads safer — it won’t.”

Accident death rates among elderly drivers

Accident death rates among elderly drivers are much higher than younger motorists. For example, the research showed that the accident death rate per 1m drivers was twice as high for 75 year olds as for 45 year olds.

However the research has highlighted that deaths among elderly drivers involved in road accidents is much higher because physically they are frailer than younger motorists.

Old car on the road in the UK

Young drivers involved in more accidents

According to the research, male drivers aged 17-21 are three to four times more likely to be involved in accidents than elderly drivers.

And the accidents that old and young drivers are involved in are different in nature.

Young drivers are more likely to be involved in single vehicle accidents caused by speeding or loss of control.

Older drivers tend to be involved in accidents that result in smaller impact collisions, with tight manoeuvres a common cause.

Elderly drivers are more cautious

The type of accidents that elderly drivers are involved in are indicative of how those aged 70 and over drive.

They tend to compensate for the effects of old age by driving slowly, leaving large gaps and only going out on the road when the weather is better and the roads quieter, said Musselwhite.

Re-testing not the solution

Re-testing or taking licences away from elderly drivers is not the solution, says Musselwhite.

Instead he believes that the surrounding infrastructure should be improved with the elderly in mind, whether that’s road markings or driverless technology.