Older drivers must embrace technology

Older drivers need to be helped to stay safe on the roads for as long as possible through a combination of training and technology, according to the AA Charitable Trust.

Today Edmund King, director of the AA Charitable Trust and Visiting Professor of Transport at Newcastle University, will address the subject at the Transport Matters Event at Newcastle University to an audience of academics and older drivers.

Research from the AA shows that older drivers need to be encouraged to embrace new technology in cars, such as autonomous emergency braking and autonomous aspects of driverless vehicles, which may help keep them driving safely for longer.

Responses to the AA/Populus panel show that drivers over 65 are the most sceptical when it comes to autonomous vehicles, with 61% saying they wouldn’t trust the government or manufacturer assurances that driverless cars were safe.

The same survey showed older drivers are also the least likely (29%) think UK legislation should allow trials of driverless cars here. Yet despite their hesitance about the technology, older drivers were the most likely (13%) to admit that driverless cars would increase their mobility.

A separate AA/Populus survey showed older drivers are the least likely to rely on a sat-nav in their car for navigation (nine per cent). The younger the driver, the more likely they are to rely on a sat-nav (43% of those aged 18-24). Yet as the amount of technology in cars increases, so too will the number of older drivers as the general population ages.

Government statistics show that in proportion of over 70’s who held a driving licence increased from 44% to 62% in the ten years from 2003 to 2013. Estimates show that by 2030 the number of drivers aged 80 and over will have increased to 2.9million, compared to 1.3 million in 2012.

Research showed older drivers are very reliant on their cars to carry out essential day-to-day activities. The vast majority of drivers over 65 rely on their car for grocery shopping (89%), visiting friends and family (86%), social events and hobbies (76%), day trips (73%), medical appointments (72%) as well as going on holidays and short breaks (69%).

One in six (15%) also still rely on their car to get to and from work. And a quarter (26%) say they worry a lot about how they would manage if they had to give up their car.
Professor Edmund King, said, ‘The importance of keeping older drivers safe and mobile is vital for all road users, and society in general.

‘Many people will continue to contribute to the economy by working past retirement in years to come and having a car can be essential for getting to and from work.

‘Technology could play a vital role in helping keep drivers on the road safely for longer but the older drivers get, the more sceptical they tend to be about it. It’s important that the older generation is taken into account when it comes to developing technology and previous work at Newcastle University has identified the benefits of tailored technology such as ‘granny navs’ – sat navs more suitable for the older generation.

‘Training is also necessary and one of the main benefits it can bring is increased confidence in an older person that they are safe to continue driving. The AA Trust’s free Drive Confident courses show the benefits of retraining and more training will be required to keep up with new in-car technology.

‘Generally, older drivers are very responsible about their safety on the roads and many may be stopping driving prematurely because they are worried they pose a risk. But just a few hours with a professional can top up skills and provide the confidence they need to carry on driving with peace of mind.’