In an ageing society, we can expect far more older drivers on our roads. This is not a bad thing, given that older drivers tend to be as safe as other age groups, up to around the age of 80 – by which time the majority of people have ceased driving.
Older people have the right to stay as mobile and active, and as safe, as everyone else. However, in order to achieve this there are several barriers to be surmounted. Questions which have to be tackled include: why is the reduction rate of the number of older people killed or injured on the roads lagging behind other age groups, and what can be done to improve this? How do older people form perceptions of safety, and given that it may be restricting to their mobility, how can they overcome anxieties associated with transport?
When most of us think of the benefits of cycling, we probably think of the individual cyclist getting a nice bit of physical exercise and the negligible carbon footprint of cycling as opposed to other modes of transport. However, a study undertaken by the London School of Economics (LSE) has revealed that Britain’s 13 million cyclists contribute almost £3bn to the economy .
Regulations issued recently by the European Union, in the form of the Second European Driving License Directive, contain provisions for licensing restrictions on older drivers. This will be confirmed by the forthcoming Third European Directive, which will take effect from January 2013.
As society ages, there will be increasing numbers of older drivers on our roads. Yet there is no evidence that older drivers are less safe than other age groups, and indeed no evidence that restrictive regulatory systems produce safer roads. Last week, ILC-UK published the report Can Older Drivers Be Nudged? How the Public and Private Sectors Can Influence Older Drivers’ Self-Regulation with the RAC Foundation, which considered whether this is a policy area amenable to the government’s ‘nudge’ agenda.
The British Society of Gerontology conference, held this week at Brunel University, featured several papers on transport needs – particularly the role of the car in older people’s well-being.
We all know the population is shifting, with older people forming a significant proportion of the population. But there is more than one type of change happening. The phenomenon of increasing obesity levels in the UK has led to a raft of public health initiatives aimed at tackling the diet, health and well being of people of all ages. It is well documented that changes in behaviour can be slow to happen and at the moment most initiatives appear to be stemming the tide rather than turning it, but there is no doubt that people’s body shapes are changing. Less well documented are changes in height; Europeans are on average getting taller and the universal approved heights for everything from beds to transport is increasingly too small or short.
The Department for Transport has published the findings of the National Travel Survey (2008). Coming after a recent media furore about free travel for older people, it is interesting to see how the travelling habits of older people are changing. With isolation among older people a continuing problem, the importance of mobility to older people cannot be underestimated.