Road safety of aged a concern

Road Safety Advisory Council chairman Jim Cox

Road Safety Advisory Council chairman Jim Cox

THE ageing population will continue to be a challenge for the road safety of older Australians, a road safety expert has warned, after new data revealed a spike in deaths of older road users.

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics published national road safety statistics last week, which showed a 20 per cent increase in deaths of road users aged 65 to 74 years old, from 100 deaths in 2004, to 120 deaths in 2013.

This was the only age group where fatalities increased during the past 10 years.

Across all age groups nationally, fatalities decreased by 24.6 per cent in the same period.

Road Safety Advisory Council chairman Jim Cox said yesterday that an ageing demographic meant the issue would continue to be a concern.

``While older drivers are represented in the statistics, it does not mean that all older drivers are a problem on the roads,'' he said.

``It's the younger, 18 to 25-year-old age group, which is the biggest problem.''

The BITRE statistics confirmed previous findings that intersection fatalities involving older operators were over-represented, as were multiple vehicle crashes.

The report found that deaths involving an older driver were more likely to occur at an intersection.

Mr Cox recalled a problem with intersections being raised at a road safety symposium for older drivers in Victoria about eight or nine years ago.

``Older drivers look to the left, they look to the right, but not to the left again, and then they pull out,'' he said.

``Historically, there are a lot of side impacts.''

He said he knew of a driving method employed by a Melbourne driver, a woman in her late 80s or early 90s, in order to maintain her licence.

``She still drove, but took longer trips, by doing only left-hand turns,'' Mr Cox said.

``When we researched it, a lot of older drivers were doing very similar things, so they didn't draw attention to themselves.''

The BITRE figures also showed that of the increases in deaths of road users aged 65 or over, most were drivers or motorcyclists and happened in the past three years.

The report found that motorcyclist deaths for people aged 65 or over, have increased from five per year to 25 per year.

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