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Elderly drivers could stay on the road longer using in-car tech

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Black boxes and driver assist technologies could help older drivers to stay safe on the roads, according to transport research organisation the RAC Foundation.

While a study from 2016 found that drivers over the age of 70 are involved in up to four times fewer accidents than 17-21-year-old men, their comparative frailness means they are more likely to suffer sever injuries in a crash.

Evidence points to older drivers being good at trying to self-regulate their driving, such as not driving at night or in the rush hour, in recognition of their declining sight and reaction times. The RAC Foundation has said they should given “more objective information” on which to base their decisions.

It suggests using in-car telematics systems, similar to those already provided with insurance policies that target young people, which sense and record how vehicles are being driven. This data can then be fed back to the driver, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses behind the wheel.

Driver-assist technologies could also be beneficial, such as collision warnings; lane departure alerts; fatigue detection systems, and cross-traffic assistance.

“However, manufacturers must ensure systems are easy and intuitive to use and that warning signals are easily identifiable and do not create extra confusion or stress for drivers,” the organisation said. “More basic technology such as parking assist help make every-day, low-level tasks simpler and quicker.”

Once UK motorists reach 70 they must declare whether or not they are fit to drive every three years, without having to take a driving or medical examination. The report says there is evidence that mass retesting of drivers once they hit 70 has shown to be largely ineffective.

There are 5.5 million driving licence holders in Britain aged 70 or over - up 41 per cent compared with 2012.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said older drivers have “an enviable safety record” despite “sensational headlines”.

He explained that people suffer conditions which affect their driving ability at different stages of life and to various degrees, meaning “it is so hard to devise a meaningful retest to be taken at what will always be an arbitrary age”.

He went on: “This report has two key messages. One is that technology has a large role to play in keeping people safe and the other is that any information we can get which encourages and helps us make an informed decision about our ability to drive safely is to be welcomed.

“One practical measure we would back is a requirement to have a regular eyesight test, probably to coincide with the 10-year intervals at which people must renew their photocard driving licences and certainly at age 70 when motorists are currently required to self-certify their continued ability to drive.”

The study was carried out by Dr Julie Gandolfi of Driving Research Ltd.

In July 2019, the Government launched a strategy designed to boost the role of technology in the lives of elderly people in order to give them more years of independent living.

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