In most situations, more years behind you equates to better experience. If this is the case, why are we so quick to demonise older drivers?
There have been a number of highly publicised incidents involving older drivers in the last few weeks. As tragic as the cases may be, it would be harmful for us as a society to take these incidents, out of proportion.
Reacting in a knee-jerk way by imposing stricter measures on older drivers (who are already statistically one of the safest groups on our roads) would only place unnecessary strain on public services that are already struggling to cope.
Imposing more regulations on older drivers means placing additional undue pressure on the group that will inevitably put many off driving into old age. This means people may start giving up driving earlier than they need to out of fear, leaving them solely reliant on others or public transport.
If these alternative options are not easily available to them then chances are individuals will become more housebound and less able to carry out the normal everyday activities that we take for granted (including medical and social visits). Even worse it could lead to isolation (and consequently depression) as the extra effort required to go out, or the fear of burdening others might become too overwhelming.
To put it plainly, there is a lot more to driving than just driving. Driving, particularly in areas where access to public transport is limited, is about the connection to the outside world - family, friends…ultimately simple human interaction! Even the brief conversation with the person serving at a checkout, can make all the difference to someone’s day.
A recent Age UK report found that loneliness had a ‘higher health risk than lifelong smoking,’ isolation was a key contributor towards depression and that lack of social interaction could be linked to the onset of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
If safe driving can help to prevent the development of these issues then we would be foolish not to encourage older people to stay behind the wheel for as long as they are fit to do so. As well as benefits to the individual, the Age UK report also outlined how better transport can be linked to savings to the NHS due to a reduction in missed appointments and the prevalence of the health conditions mentioned above. So for me, there is no question about it – we must support older drivers to the best of our abilities.
And remember if you are concerned about the driving capability of an older relative or friend there are a number of good ways to ensure that older drivers are fit for driving including voluntary assessments and regular GP and eyesight check-ups. At IAM RoadSmart we offer our on Mature Driver Review to offer peace of mind to drivers and their families. You can find out more about it here.
Thenuka Mahendrarasa, IAM RoadSmart’s social media executive