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Older road users particularly at risk

23 March 2016

Older road users (those aged 75 and above) have the second highest road fatality rate of all age groups. They generally present a greater risk to themselves than to others, due to their frailty and vulnerability to injury or death in the event of a crash.

As a result of demographic change, more and more elderly people are using Europe’s roads, and the extent of their mobility may contribute to increased road deaths among older road users. In light of this trend, a European Commission study has assessed the related risks and identified countermeasures to improve the safety of elderly people on the road.

Older people’s high fatality rate in crashes is largely determined by deteriorating motor functions related to muscle strength, coordination and rapid body movement. Decline in visual and cognitive functions is less of an issue, apart from in severe cases.

Drivers in poor physical health are more likely to suffer severe injury in the event of a crash. Distance travelled also plays a part, with crash rates higher among people who drive less frequently or shorter distances.

At the same time, older road users’ driving behaviour and experience can weigh in their favour. They are often more aware of their limitations and compensate by driving more safely, for example when roads are less busy or in daylight or dry conditions.

A study to make proposals to address risks to elderly road users has been made by the European Commission-funded ElderSafe and it aims to assess the main trends and road safety risks for older road user groups and gives an overview and analysis of measures to increase their safety.

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