Elderly drivers could see major road changes across UK to boost safety

Dr Hilary discusses the risks for older drivers

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There are more than 134,000 drivers over the age of 90 on the road in the UK, with more than 5.7 million drivers aged over 70 – almost double the number in 2012. It has been estimated that there will be more than one million drivers over the age of 85 on UK roads by 2025, with motoring groups calling for change to protect elderly drivers.

An Older Driver Task Force report recommended the DVLA should require evidence of an eyesight test at age 75.

The automatic requirement for drivers to notify the DVLA at age 70 of any medical condition that may affect safe driving should be raised to 75, it was argued.

The medical condition notification requirement was introduced more than 50 years ago when life spans were a decade shorter. 

The Task Force said there is no convincing evidence today that drivers in the 70 to 75 age group present a special general risk justifying this requirement

It has been suggested every road in the country should be surveyed to ensure they are safe to use by elderly motorists.

Rob Heard, the chair of the Older Drivers’ Forum told a webinar earlier this week that such a survey across the whole of the UK would “identify problematic roads”.

He added these roads could receive targeted interventions, such as at junctions.

Many safety experts have called on new measures to improve infrastructure in the UK for the benefit of the ageing population.

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The event was held to mark the “Project EDWARD” week of action, which has the aim of achieving every day without a road death.

According to Transport Infrastructure News, Mr Heard said he would like to see larger fonts on road signs to make them clearer and easier to read.

This could also include the use of fluorescent orange or yellow backing plates on signs to make them more visible.

Mr Heard added: “The other thing is protected merge lanes, so when you are joining a motorway or a fast large road the slip roads are longer, giving you more time to merge with traffic.”

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He also called for the replacement of some T-junctions with either mini roundabouts or traffic lights to make turning right at a junction safer for older motorists.

The general driving ability was then assessed by the members at the event, hosted by former Blue Peter television presenter Valerie Singleton.

Charles Musselwhite, a professor at Aberystwyth University, who specialises in psychology, said older people were “pretty safe drivers”.

He pointed to research which shows there is an increase in collisions from 75 years of age onwards, particularly those over 85.

Professor Musselwhite added: “But we are pretty certain that almost all of that increase is simply due to frailty that happens in older life.

“So you are more likely to be injured or killed by something you may have walked away from in earlier life,” Transport Infrastructure News reported.

He did recognise that changes in cognition, eyesight and mobility all have an impact on the ability to drive, and something which naturally gets worse with age.

He also spoke of an “escalation of commitment”, saying that senior motorists may make a mistake and realise, but instead of correcting it, they continue making the same mistakes.

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