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Elderly driver in traffic
8/17/2011 1:38:14 PM

Elderly driver in traffic

Population aging
The amount and share of the elderly in contrast to the population is increasing particularly strong, as the baby boomer generation - born after the war - enters retirement age in 2010’s. According to estimates, 26% of the population will be over 65 years old by 2030. At present, the comparative figure is 16%.    

The number of elderly drivers increases
More and more members of the aging population have a driving license. As one takes into account the amount of driving license holders by age group, relinquishing one’s license and mortality rate, it can be estimated that in 2010 there are 300,000 driving license holders over 70; five years later the threshold for 400,000 is crossed. According to driving license statistics of Finnish Vehicle Administration AKE, there were 222,632 drivers of comparative age in 2006. 
 Driving is safe for
healthy seniors

Aging involves slow changes that manifest gradually. Sight, hearing and muscle strength deteriorate and observation, evaluation and reacting are slowed down.
The elderly are usually aware of the changes brought on by age and are therefore cautious drivers. They avoid traffic jams and driving in bad weather conditions; in addition, they use routes that allow them to deploy a suitable driving style.     

Conscientious driving performance of healthy senior citizens is safe enough that they deserve the same right to use a car as younger people do.
Crossings are dangerous 
For elderly drivers, the most common cause for accident is difficulty in observing other traffic. The most serious accidents occur in crossings. Turning left is the hardest thing to do, because the driver must monitor traffic from all directions.      
Elderly drivers are less likely to be involved in drunk driving, veering off the road or rear-end accidents than young drivers.

Safety reducing factors
A senior citizen’s body is frail. Due to this, already a slight bump in traffic may have serious consequences.

Stroke, progressive memory disorder diseases, Parkinson’s disease and brain damage caused by falling down are among the most common diseases that affect the safety of driving in a negative way. Diseases which influence traffic vision such as cataract or retinal

 detachment cause sensitivity to bright lighting conditions or make it harder to see when it is dark. With regards to Alzheimer’s disease, the patient has no experience of sickness, making it more difficult to notice the deterioration of one’s driving skills. Driving ability is at a dangerously weak level at least in the phase where the patient needs support from others to cope with everyday functions.    
Goal: independent movement

The option to move outside the home independently is an important part of well-being. According to research, elderly people - especially women - living in rural areas, far away from services, are in the weakest position when it comes to unrestricted move-
ment. The situation is very different if the senior citizen still has a driving license and has a car in his/her disposal.  

By Liikenneturva



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