Research: Are older drivers more dangerous than other motorists?
Often when a road accident involves an older driver, a frequent response is concern about their driving ability due to their age. I recently read an article in the Manchester Evening News regarding a pensioner who smashed his car into a house while reversing out of his driveway. Similar stories involving older drivers have also been featured in the media recently.
This information left me wondering if older drivers are more dangerous than other motorists? Or are these simply unfortunate incidents which had no correlation with the drivers age?
Older Drivers vs Other Motorists
Research suggests that older drivers are no more dangerous than other motorists on our roads. Often older drivers choose to only drive during the day and in familiar areas. Whereas research also suggests that younger drivers are more likely to take risks whilst driving. This increases the chance of accidents and risks the safety of all road users.
We contacted Compare the Market to find out their view on this.
Dan Hutson, car insurance expert at Compare the Market commented;
“Government statistics show that younger drivers – those who don’t have many miles under their belt and who might be impetuous and risk-taking behind the wheel – are involved in more accidents than older drivers. And the accidents they are in tend to result in more deaths and injuries, mainly because of high speed impacts and a relatively high number of passengers on board.
“But that doesn’t mean we can be relaxed about the safety implications of having drivers behind the wheel who may be feeling the effects of advanced years.
“This is why anyone who reaches 70 must renew their licence every three years and must, by law, tell the DVLA and their insurance provider if they develop a medical condition that might affect their driving. It’s an acknowledgement that getting old may impair someone’s ability to drive safely.
“But it’s impossible to be definitive about driving ability at either end of the age scale, or indeed in the middle. You can be a perfectly safe and responsible teenage driver, a reckless driver in his or her 40s, or a fit, sensible driver who happens to be an old age pensioner. At every age, education is important, stressing to every driver their individual responsibility in keeping our roads as safe as possible.”
What is the General Public's View on Older Drivers?
We decided to conduct a survey with 120 people to find out their view on older drivers. For this survey, we had 60 females and 60 males of different ages participating.As the first question, we asked participants to rate how strongly they agree or disagree with the following statement:
"Older drivers are more dangerous than other motorists?"
The graph above shows that 41 people had a neutral view in response to this statement. A high proportion of these people felt younger drivers were equally as dangerous as older drivers. Of these 41 responses, 21 were females and 20 were males showing an equal split between the genders.
Also, the results show an almost equal split between the number of people voting ‘agree’ and ‘disagree’. However, from analysing this, there’s an overall pattern of older people voting disagree and younger people voting agree. Several younger participants expressed concern that older drivers “have slower reaction times”. Generally, the public has very mixed views about whether or not older drivers are more dangerous than other motorists. I think this highlights the fact that age isn't the only factor affecting someone's driving ability.
Should retests be mandatory for older drivers?
For years there has been discussions about whether retests should be made mandatory for older drivers. Although once a driver reaches 70 they must renew their licence every three years, currently there's no legal requirement for these drivers to retake their test. As part of our survey we asked participants about their opinion on this.
The graph above shows that 42.5% of participants responded 'yes' to this question, of which 24 were females and 27 were males.However, similarly 34.2% of participants responded 'no' to this question. This shows a very mixed view about whether retests should be made mandatory for older drivers. Although, some of the people who answered 'no' did mention that their response would have been 'yes' if the age had been 75 instead of 65. Also, there was a strong correlation between people answering 'disagree' to the previous question and 'no' to this question. Furthermore our survey found that 83.3% of people aged 73+ felt retests should not be mandatory for older drivers. Some of these people mentioned that they felt younger drivers are more dangerous on our roads.
From our research, it seems that drivers, regardless of their age, are trying to blame other drivers for dangerous driving on our roads. This leaves me wondering if many drivers are in denial about their own driving ability or are they actually exceptional drivers? One thing for sure is that age alone is not the only factor impacting your driving ability. Therefore this highlights that older drivers should not be penalised by car insurance companies due to their age alone.