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Older road user

People want to remain mobile – and feel safe on the roads – even when they reach an advanced age. The aging of society, which is an increasing trend, will have a considerable influence on mobility and accident statistics. The consequences of road traffic accidents involving senior citizens are already alarming. Since 1996, the number of senior citizens involved in road traffic accidents has been rising disproportionately compared to other road users. Almost a quarter of all road users who are killed, over half of the pedestrians who are killed and half of the cyclists killed are senior citizens.

A study of the UDV (German Insurers Accident Research) reveals the problems with which older people are confronted on the roads, compares their subjective assessments of their safety with the reality reflected in the accident statistics and describes measures designed to allow age-appropriate mobility that meets their requirements. In addition, it forecasts that senior citizens will feature increasingly in the accident statistics of the next 20 to 40 years.

Complex situations, above all, are assessed by older road users themselves as being a problem. This study showed that objective research findings and the subjective assessments of the age group are largely in agreement.

However, the increase in the number of accidents involving older people, which has been evident for some time, must be subjected to a more differentiated evaluation – not just against the background of the demographic trend. The analyses of the accident statistics have made it clear, for example, that older road users who are primarily responsible for causing traffic accidents are themselves the main victims in terms of serious injuries and fatalities.

Problems associated with an age-related decline in capabilities in traffic necessitate compensatory measures whose effectiveness was quantified in risk forecasts for three time horizons – 2020, 2030 and 2050 – on the basis of combined scenarios, taking into account demographic trends, mobility and measures to be implemented. It was revealed that an improvement of the road safety of older people is essential if we want to at least compensate for – if not further reduce – the increasing economic damage that will otherwise be incurred. On the other hand, the calculations for the scenarios show that the avoidable costs offer considerable potential for investments to be made in the transport system to improve road safety.

Measures to introduce driver assistance systems (inparticular partly automated  driving), infrastructural measures to improve the safety of turning off a road, turning into a road and other maneuvers at intersections, increasingly “self-explanatory” road design/layout on roads outside built-up areas and measures to enforce speed limits and adapt speeds to suit the requirements of cyclists and pedestrians in built-up areas all make a contribution toward improving the road safety of older road users. These measures also benefit all road users.

The study revealed that further research is required into the following aspects:

  • the road safety and behaviour of older pedestrians when crossing the road in different conditions in terms of traffic and infrastructure (for example, the existence, type and design/size of secured pedestrian crossings, the vehicle speeds, the design of the road cross-section or the type of urban utilization);

  • the road safety and behaviour of older cyclists in different conditions in terms of traffic and infrastructure (for example, the existence, type and location of cycle paths or lines in the road cross-section, the options for cyclists turning left and thus across oncoming traffic and the vehicle speeds);

  • the road safety and behaviour of older drivers at intersections depending on infrastructure standards and other factors;

  • the effects of age-related declines in capabilities and illnesses on the road safety of older road users;

  • the basic requirements and methods for successfully tackling the issue of road safety with older people living independently in private households.

Some of these aspects are covered by existing official regulations governing road traffic. Results from the investigations could thus be used to adapt these to suit the specific requirements of older road users.