Big rise in casualties leads to a new approach to keep older drivers safe
By Bethany Winter | 28th October 2022
A new approach to road safety, designed to recognise the vulnerability of older drivers and keep them safe behind the wheel was launched.
The Gloucestershire Constabulary Older Drivers Strategic Approach, aims to keep those over 70 safe on our roads, maintaining their independence while reducing the risks and vulnerabilities that could lead to serious, or even fatal accidents.
The aim is to produce a standardised, approach towards reducing risks linked to road use by older people following a 160% increase in the number of people aged 65 and over, killed or seriously injured on the county's roads.
Supt Paul Keasey, roads policing lead at Gloucestershire Constabulary, said: "This is about keeping older people, who may rely on their vehicles for their independence safe and reducing the potential risk to other road users."
While older drivers account for 15% of all licence holders, almost twice that number, 28%, account for all road deaths.
With more people reaching the age of 70, and re-applying to the DVLA to continue driving, there is a growing national movement to make sure that people know how to get the most of their vehicles and remain safe on our roads.
Last week, the Older Drivers' Forum for Gloucestershire held a day of action to raise awareness of the issue. The aim was to counter the rise in older road-user casualties in the county and signpost older drivers and their families to advice on how to keep driving safely for longer. It was supported by Project Edward (Every Day Without A Road Death), the biggest annual road safety national platform.
Nigel Lloyd-Jones, the forum's co-lead said: "We welcome this recognition by PCC Chris Nelson and the Constabulary of the demographic time bomb older driver safety represents, and the need to act now.
"This innovative, evidence-informed strategic approach, developed by some of the most experienced and brightest road safety minds in the country, connects and aligns the collaborative strengths of the statutory and third sector in a ground-breaking new initiative.
"In support of the plan the Older Drivers Forum looks forward to expanding its existing activities in creating greater community awareness and providing practical advice and support on how to keep older drivers driving safely for longer".
The current annual national growth of additional licence holders - those aged 70 and over - is around 250,000. By 2025, the number of drivers in the UK aged over 85 is estimated to be more than 1,000,000 - double the number that existed in 2016. Statistics also show that for every mile driven, the risk of a person aged 80 or more being killed whilst driving is 10 times higher than those aged 40 - 49 who are the group of lowest risk.
Gloucestershire has a much older population than many other places. From 2009 -2019, the number of people in the county over the age of 65 grew by 28%, compared to 23% nationally. A percentage that is predicted to almost double over the next twenty years.
The number of collisions involving older people reveals a similar increase with a 160% rise in older road users killed or seriously injured from 2010 - 2019.
Supt Keasey said: "More and more people over the age of 70 are still driving and that means we need to be alive to the changing nature of road users and their vulnerabilities.
"We don't want to take older people off the road, we want to keep them safe and reduce the potential risk to other road users. That's why Gloucestershire want to be ahead of the game.
"As part of our new approach, the Constabulary will adopt the 'fit to drive' scheme, which will see those who fit the criteria referred to Driver Mobility who are accredited to the DVLA to check on people's abilities behind the wheel and give individual help and support to vulnerable drivers".
Chris Nelson, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) said: "This new, strategic approach will help older people safely maintain their independence, and make our roads safer.
"Assessing their ability to drive safely is not meant to be a punitive measure, but provide a safety net that will give them added confidence when they're behind the wheel.
"Whilst older motorists, like myself, have a wealth of experience, we have to accept the passage of time can also affect other faculties like sight, hearing, reactions and judgement of speed and distance. This new, strategic approach identifies the need to understand those factors because we want to do all we can to keep everyone, whatever their age, safe on our roads."
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