Research Says Elderly Pedestrians Endangered More Than Elderly Drivers

Posted on August 24, 2012

In both the United States and Great Britain, officials have placed an increased emphasis on stringent licensing requirements that must be met in order for an elderly person to obtain a driver’s license.  Many people are under the impression that driving ability is likely to suffer as an individual gets older and faces deterioration of their cognitive abilities and eyesight.

However, research out of Britain’s Plymouth University has shown that elderly pedestrians are placed in far more danger than are elderly drivers.  The study, the results of which have just been feature in a new report, involved researchers compiling police records of every fatal accident along United Kingdom roadways from 1989 to 2009.

What they found was that people over 70 only had a fatal car ride in 14 out of every 100 million trips taken.  That’s compared with 13 out of 100 million among the 29 and younger demographic, not a significant difference.  The people between these age demographics tended to face less of a risk.  However, when you look at it from an overall fatality standpoint, far fewer elderly drivers are killed than are younger drivers.  For instance, 2009 saw one in every ten traffic deaths occurring to someone older than 70, for a total of 1,138 fatalities for the year, compared with one in four deaths that affected younger drivers.

Unfortunately, pedestrian fatality rates paint a far more disturbing picture.  23 out of every 100 million trips prove to be deadly for people over the age of 70, a rate that’s five times as high as when people younger than 29 head out on foot.  And according to research found in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 37% of pedestrian fatalities in 2009 were of elderly persons.

When comparing these statistics, it’s easy to see that a senior citizen on foot is placed in far greater danger than the same person behind the wheel, which might be counter-intuitive to many younger persons who encourage their elders to walk more and drive less.  The person who led the research went so far as to call elderly drivers ideal because they can afford to avoid rainy or otherwise dangerous conditions by simply staying at home, an option that many younger people typically don’t have.

This evidence shows that there is a distinct need for pedestrian safety improvements in areas across the country.  Lengthier pedestrian crossing times at crosswalks and the installation of traffic islands could go a long way toward preventing disaster.  And as the population of the entire country ages, you can bet that this issue will make its way to the forefront of many people’s minds.

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