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Older people safer behind the wheel than on the streets

September 6, 2012

A new survey by a group at Plymouth University has uncovered surprising statistics concerning road traffic accidents amongst older people.

Most people would tend to think that older people, especially those over 70, would be more of a risk behind the wheel than using the bus or walking along a pavement. In fact, the U.K. is not alone amongst major countries in focusing on the over 70s when it comes to restrictions on licence renewals.

However, the research by the university group revealed that not only did the over 70s appear to be just as safe as younger people as drivers, but they were much more likely to die in a road traffic accident if they were walking on a pavement or crossing the road.

The figures indicated that the under 29 age group and the over 70s were equally likely to be involved in a road traffic accident, while those who were middle aged were slightly less likely to be involved in an accident.

As far as accident fatalities went, 13 in 100 million trips led to a death amongst the under 29s, while 14 in 100 million trips led to a death amongst the over 70s.

The researchers thought that older people were more likely to postpone their trip in a car if they thought that the weather was bad or they were tired or not feeling well and were less likely to drive after drinking alcohol than younger people. Most younger people often have more pressures on them which mean they might be driving faster than is considered safe, or in worse road conditions, because they have to get to work or take the kids to school.

The most surprising research findings were that older people were much more likely to die after being hit by a vehicle when out walking. In fact, they were five times more likely to die as a pedestrian than somebody who was under 29.

The possibility is that older people’s faculties are slower and this makes it more likely that they either don’t see or hear an oncoming vehicle, either when crossing a street or avoiding a vehicle that careers off the road.