Road safety for ageing road users
As our population ages, older drivers are becoming more at risk of being killed or seriously injured on the roads. While the risk of crashes in young drivers is risky driving behaviour, in older drivers it is increased frailty and issues associated with ageing that create the risk.
It is important older drivers look out for warning signs they are not driving safely and follow a range of driving safety tips for seniors to help keep them safe on the roads – whether it is as a driver or as a pedestrian.
Drivers aged 75 years and over killed on Victorian Roads
In the above graph, while older driver deaths reduced by 14% from 2008-2009, the number of older driver fatalities is still above average.
Our latest statistics show that in 2009, 18 older drivers were killed. Of these deaths:
- 56% were male,
- 61% were involved in single vehicle crashes,
- 56% occurred on metro roads,
- 94% occurred during low alcohol times,
- 94% occurred during daylight hours, and
- 44% occurred on roads sign-posted 100km/h or more.
Driver age risk relative to lowest group
Drivers at risk - 75 years and over
Drivers aged 75 years or over have a higher risk (per distance travelled) of being killed in a crash than any other age group. As we age our bodies become more fragile and those particularly in this age group are more likely to be hurt or killed in a crash.
Many older people are perfectly capable of driving safely, yet physical and mental changes that often come with ageing can affect how well older people drive. This includes:
- slower reaction times
- loss of clarity in vision and hearing
- loss of muscle strength and flexibility
- use of prescription drugs which may cause drowsiness
There are many risks facing older road users. These include:
- Most older pedestrian fatalities occur while crossing the road, particularly when stepping onto the road or approaching the other side of the road. Reduced mobility can make it difficult for older people to walk quickly, react to danger, and to evade an oncoming vehicle.
- Both prescription and non-prescription medications can influence driving ability. Side effects of some medicines can include sleepiness, nausea, blurred or double vision, dizziness and shaking, all of which can make driving difficult and dangerous. These side effects are often worse if medication is combined with alcohol.
- Check warning labels indicating the influence medicines can have on driving or check with your doctor or pharmacist.
- With age, vision naturally deteriorates in a number of ways:
- changing focus becomes more difficult
- peripheral vision deteriorates
- colours become harder to detect
- judging distances becomes harder
- glare influences ability to see clearly
- more light is required to see clearly.
- Always wear glasses if they are prescribed and have regular eye checks to ensure safe driving.
- Glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetes can all affect vision. If you suffer from any of these conditions check with your doctor to ensure that you are safe to drive.
- These factors can also influence your safety as a pedestrian.
Other medical issues:
- Reduced flexibility, slower reaction time, hearing problems, epilepsy, heart disease and dementia can affect your ability to drive and your safety as a pedestrian.
- As older people tend to be frail, the risk of fatality and serious injury in a crash is greater.
- To find out the safety rating of your car, or one you may be buying, see How Safe is Your Car, a website that provides safety ratings on new and second-hand cars.
- The RACV runs Road Safety for Seniors courses which are a great way to keep safe on the roads.
We provide the popular Community Mobility for Older People program (CMOPS), a community-based health promotion which provides older people in the community and their families and friends with current, important and helpful information on safe road use.