New road safety campaign to target older Australians

Police are launching a new road safety advertising campaign targeting older drivers.

According to South Australian police, people aged over 70 make up just 13 per cent of the state’s population, yet account for around 23 per cent of road fatalities each year.

Nationwide, the figures look a little better where older people make up just less than 12 per cent of the total population, and account for around 10 per cent of road fatalities.

The campaign focuses on alerting older people to the early signs of cognitive decline and reduced physical capability and responsiveness. South Australian police say rather than being an attack on older drivers, the ads are intended to “start a conversation” among families about whether a person should continue to drive.

Read: Most common mistakes made by older drivers

The campaign will run across TV, radio and print.

“This campaign is not about blaming or disempowering older South Australians,” the officer spearheading the campaign, Assistant Commissioner Ian Parrott, told The Advertiser.

“We have a responsibility to educate and positively influence the decisions of all road users in order to make the roads as safe as possible for every person.

“This campaign is designed to start a conversation between older drivers, their family members and medical carers. It’s about being prepared with options and supports to draw on if driving is becoming more stressful, scarier and therefore less safe.”

Read: Ageist focus on older drivers

While Assistant Commissioner Parrott acknowledged that older drivers tend to drive less, were often more cautious, generally obeyed road laws and crashed less often, he confirmed that when older people did crash the incident and injuries tended to be more severe.

He acknowledged that discussions around older people’s driving skills were often highly stressful as the safety concerns tended to conflict with a sense of self-identity and independence.

The new ad campaign, rather than accuse older people of poor driving, instead aims to gently remind older drivers of the signs of increasing vulnerability as they age.

Read: Should older drivers be tested more?

The federal Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) found that over the past decade, total road crash deaths declined by 24.6 per cent across all age groups. However, road deaths for people aged 65 and over increased by 8 per cent over the same period.

Road rules for older drivers also differ around the country. In SA, Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT all drivers aged 75 and over must complete an annual medical assessment to keep their licence. NSW also mandates that those aged 85 and over must re-take a driving assessment every two years.

But in Victoria, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, there are no restrictions or requirement on older drivers beyond advising of any medical issues. In these states, the onus is on the driver to decide when they’re no longer capable of driving.

Do you think it’s fair to single out older drivers in this ad campaign? Have you or will you be practical when it comes to hanging up the car keys? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer