Road Safety News

Older road users still safe – but watch this space

Thursday 16th October 2014

While collision rates among older road users are on the rise, they are still relatively low compared to some other groups - but that may not remain the case going forward.

That is the main message from an analysis of older road user involvement in road collisions in the north east of England, carried out by the North East Regional Road Safety Resource.

The report analyses the statistics on older road user (70+ years) involvement in collisions on roads in north east England between 2009 and 2013.  It looks into both injuries sustained by older road users, and collisions in which they were involved.

This topic was chosen for detailed investigation due to the potential road safety issues relating to an aging population in the region (and across the rest of the UK), with projections from the Office for National Statistics estimating that 20% of the population in the north east will be aged 70 years or over by 2034, compared to 13% in 2013.

The analysis found that while the number of casualties sustained by older road users is decreasing, the rate of reduction is slower than in other age groups, particularly when taking into account the increasing size of the population aged over 70 years. However, older road users still account for one of the lowest casualty groups in the north east despite the aging population.

While the number of older drivers involved in collisions has increased, those from most other age groups have fallen over the same period. 

However, in terms of actual numbers, only drivers under the age of 17 years were involved in fewer collisions than older drivers.

Furthermore, while older drivers account for 10% of the region’s licence holders, they are only involved in 5% of crashes. In contrast, drivers aged 17-24 years comprise 8% of licence holders but were involved in 19% of collisions.

Peter Slater, from the North East Regional Road Safety Resource, said: “The main message from this report is that while there are currently bigger issues to address on the north east’s roads - including younger drivers, failure to look properly, and people driving for work - we have not seen the same levels of improvement among older road users as for other groups and issues.

“This trend may be exacerbated in coming years as the number of older drivers increases.”


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I think that we have to take Rod's advice about over 50 year olds getting on a bike with a pinch of salt. I think what he meant to say was if anyone is considering taking up cycling to first of all make sure they will not suffer a heart attack. They should have a full physical, then and only then, should they consider getting on a bike. We don't want to create more casualties on our roads do we?
bob craven Lancs

Agree (1) | Disagree (2)

As a 78 year old motorist who walks to the local shops I would be scared stiff, and probably a menace to other road users, if I followed Rod's advice and got on a bike.
Robert Bolt, St Albans

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

Mystified by my comment? I think Eric supplied the explanation. It is a report, and lacks definition. I have scanned the report, and see that the question near the end comes down to how to reduce the numbers of older drivers driving, and the Willingness To Pay factor. What I do not see is the acknowledgment that the population as a whole is living longer, and therefore will have an effect on casualties in the older age bracket in comparison to all others as its size becomes affected by longevity. This report ultimately has less to do with road safety, but more to do with cutting numbers of drivers down through some kind of penalty based upon finance.

There will also by nature be a surge of older casualties during the winters especially amongst pedestrians – was this taken into account?
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (6) | Disagree (23)

I would advise any driver, and particularly drivers above 50 to get a bicycle and use it or walk for shorter trips where convenient. There's no doubt that a healthier driver makes a better driver. Too many elderly "cling on" to the car as their only means of transit, with so many implications of lack of exercise and health deterioration.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us, Cheshire

Agree (23) | Disagree (9)

OK, not completely meaningless, but less helpful than it would have been had you been able to set the figures in the context of mileages covered by the different groups, as s Hugh agrees. Recent examples include reporting increases in 20mph road accidents but not the changes in the total length of those roads, and increases in cyclist injuries without mentioning the increases in cycling. Another factor not mentioned is the greater vulnerability of older occupants in any given crash.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (8) | Disagree (9)

Drivers (Riders) aged 16 can now use three types of 'moped'. Categories AM and Q are restricted to 25 km/h (15.5 mph), for us older road users mopeds are 50cc machines restricted to not more than 50km/h (31 mph). Just thought I'd try to clear that bit up.
Steve, London

Agree (13) | Disagree (0)

Glancing at the report, I learnt that some people who happened to be 'old' have been involved in accidents - as drivers; passengers (in cars and buses); as pedestrians (stationary or moving); may have been the victims of someone else's mistake or it may have been their own mistake - to name but just a few circumstances. No surprises there and no reason to think it's unique to the north-east.

Factor in under-reporting, near-misses, accuracy (or not) of Police reports and you can perhaps understand some readers' scepticism of such reports and road accident data analysis generally.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (13) | Disagree (18)

It's quite simple. The statement says "only drivers under the age of 17 years were involved in fewer collisions than older drivers". Even with Peter's clarification, as Derek obeserved, it's the sort of meaningless comparison that has the potential to undermine the credibility of the report.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (11) | Disagree (25)

I am mystified by the tone of your comment.

The North East Regional Road Safety Resource has produced an in-depth study of casualties and collisions involving older road users which road safety professionals in the region - and further afield - will find extremely useful when thinking about what measures may be required as the driving population ages over the coming years.

This report should be welcomed as it provides exactly the type of data analysis that road safety professionals require prior to developing interventions.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (32) | Disagree (7)

Drivers (riders) under the age of 17. This applies to riders aged 16 able to ride mopeds that are restricted to 15.5mph (25kph). This does not seem to be an adequate category to compare amongst age groups without numbers and mileages covered. One might find cyclists are able to travel faster - and perhaps more of them. Peter Slater's second paragraph and his later comment of "not definitive", sums up the usefulness of such a report.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (10) | Disagree (27)

Are the collision rates for older drivers actually increasing or are there just more older drivers about to skew the figures? Thought I read somewhere that the number of licence renewals for over 70s has been increasing steadily over recent years due to a general improvement in health and longevity.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (8) | Disagree (18)

Eric, yes I know this doesn’t read quite right! For the sake of brevity in the report we used the term “drivers” to also encompass “riders” as well (so this is why we have “drivers” under the age of 17) – it is actually explained in the report itself, but sorry for any confusion.
Peter Slater, North East Regional Road Safety Resource

Agree (28) | Disagree (3)

I’m afraid that I would respectfully have to disagree with you that these figures are “meaningless”. Whilst it is clearly very important to weigh up the number of miles travelled against casualty numbers, this is not the be all and end all of road safety analysis.

The reason why we did not include information on miles travelled by the over 70s in the North East is that this data is simply not available at a robust enough sample size for our region, which precludes useful (and reliable) analysis.

As for the case that the risk of injury per mile is greater for the under 20s and the over 70s - without running through numbers at a national level I could not definitively comment, however I think that you would be correct in this assumption. This, of course, makes it even more important to focus more attention on older driver (and older road user) safety in the future.

I hope that this helps.
Peter Slater, North East Regional Road Safety Resource

Agree (35) | Disagree (5)

"drivers under the age of 17 years"?
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (27)

One reason for the progress of occupant safety not being as great for older vehicle occupants is that the advancing restraint systems are less effective for them due to frailty e.g. osteoporosis. The efficacy of airbag and seatbelt pre-tensioner systems being good examples due to the loads they put through the occupant's chest. Many manufacturers use load limiting mechanisms on the seatbelt to help with this, but most systems will be optimised for the Regulation and NCAP test procedures which use a 50%ile male dummy. Some research has been conducted into smart restraint systems that optimise to the occupant by using bone density sensor systems or similar, which could be a way forward but not the easiest to implement effectively.
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (12) | Disagree (2)

Sorry, but the figures are meaningless without knowing what average mileages the various age groups drive. As 70+ and 20- drivers must cover fewer miles than the rest, their risk per mile is higher than the figures suggest. And as for "that may not remain the case going forward".................
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (7) | Disagree (31)