OLDER drivers are as safe as those from all other age groups, according to new research by the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
Contrary to widespread belief, the study shows they have better attitudes to safety, deal with hazards better than young drivers and use experience to increase their safety margins on the road.
The report reveals that drivers over 75 react just as quickly as other age groups when a vehicle emerges from a side road or if the car in front brakes suddenly on a rural road.
Official statistics show that people over 70 make up nine per cent of drivers but six per of driver casualties. This practical study found that where older drivers had slower reaction times, they used their experience on the road to compensate.
It found that they drive at slower speeds on all occasions and keep a bigger following distance than drivers from other age groups.
While the study found little difference in driving performance across the ages it did highlight two surprising areas of concern.
Compared with other age categories, the eldest group appeared to pull up short of the stop line at junctions and not look as often as others before pulling out.
And older drivers failed to look in their rear view mirror as much as other age groups on the motorway.
The report also found that older drivers were likely to have less flexibility in neck movement and poorer vision standards but this did not translate into differences in driving performance.
The IAM believes it is important these findings are used in on-road and online assessments to ensure that older drivers understand the risks they face and what they can do to improve their driving in key areas.
So the organisation is calling for a government action plan for older drivers, for more car manufacturers to consider older drivers in their vehicle design and for greater publicity to encourage health professionals to discuss driving.
It also wants better information for older drivers and their families, online self-assessment tools for older drivers and a wider availability of voluntary on-road driving assessment
IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “The government needs to create a strategy now to deal with the ageing driving population.
“Older drivers, their families and friends deserve access to assessment and information to help them stay safe on the road.
“As well as this, car makers need to look at innovative ways to use technology to help this growing sector and the medical profession has to improve the way it delivers support and advise to keep drivers fit for the roads.”