Dorset elderly drivers targeted in research project

Elderly woman driving Dorset County Council said it had the highest amount of elderly drivers in the UK

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A research project involving elderly drivers in Dorset is analysing whether free coaching sessions can reduce their involvement in road accidents.

One hundred drivers aged 75 and over are involved in the project, focussing on driving off at road junctions.

Figures show drivers aged 20 to 59 caused four-and-a-half times more road accidents than those aged 60 to 99.

But Dorset Council said it was looking at ways to manage having the highest amount of elderly drivers in the UK.

Turning right

Dorset County Council's road safety manager Rob Smith said its research showed "a large proportion of crashes where the older driver is deemed blameworthy occur at junctions when turning right".

He added this "may be due to failure to judge speed and distance properly due to the ageing process".

The council is working with Dorset Road Safe and a research specialist from Warwick University to evaluate whether a series of theory and practical lessons, costing £6,000 in total, will reduce the county's elderly driver accident statistics.

Initial results will be announced in the spring.

Dorset Police figures show the highest amount of road accidents between April 2012 and 2013 actually involved young drivers, with those aged 20-29 involved in 223 incidents.

This compares with 44 drivers aged 70 to 79, 26 drivers aged 80 to 89 and five drivers aged 90 to 99 in the same period.

'Older driver issues'

Young-versus-old driver data is used by a number of road safety charities to argue elderly drivers do not pose the greatest danger behind the wheel.

Mr Smith said young drivers were also a "priority road user group" but that offers of free or reduced price refresher sessions had a "very low take up".

The AA said it supported the older driver project.

Spokesman Paul Watters said: "There are now more than 1m drivers in the UK who are over 80 and, with an ageing population, this is only going to increase."

He added the AA's studies decades ago "identified some older driver issues setting in at around 55 years".

At the moment, motorists over 70 must declare they are fit every three years, but they do not have to take a driving or medical exam.

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