no81 2010
Being a safe senior driver-Check your driving habits again-
   In recent years, there has been a growing concern over the increasing number of traffic accidents caused by senior car drivers. Weakened physical ability such as eyesight or hearing is considered to be one of the reasons, but what may also be affecting seniors' driving are the habits formed when they were novice drivers. For example, one newspaper article about senior drivers pointed out as one of the safety precautions for them that "many senior drivers grip the steering wheel with their hands on the inside, as they did in the past to turn the wheel with greater force in the absence of power steering, which makes it difficult to swerve sharply." Possible factors which affect driving habits vary widely, including safety instructions and regulations, the infrastructure (e.g., roads, traffic lights, road signs), the traffic volume, and the vehicle technology when at the time you started driving. In addition to the basic driving habits acquired, driving habits adapt to various changes over time and accumulation of experience. The driving environment varies greatly according to the time you first started driving. This means that drivers who started driving at around the same time undergo similar changes and have almost the same length of driving experience, and so although there are many differences between individuals, there will be certain driving habits in common. This may create a difference in the driving behavior of, for instance, a person who was 65 ten years ago and a person who is 65 years old now. In this issue of ITARDA Information, we explore the driving behavior characteristics of not only aged drivers but also of different generations by comparing them at the same particular age, using our traffic accident data.

1. Age of car drivers involved in accidents
2. Number and proportion of car drivers involved in accidents
3. Type of vehicle of the primary party
4. Crossing collision
5. Primary party rate
6. Analysis of generation-specific factors
7. Examples of accidents
  So far, we have seen the statistics of traffic accidents for the 25-year period from 1984 through 2008 to explore the effect of generation-specific factors on driving behavior, and found out the following:

(1) There is virtually no decline in the share of senior car drivers among all drivers of four-wheeled and other vehicles, as well as pedestrians, directly involved in accidents even though they have become older, and it is anticipated that they will continue driving for as long as possible.

(2) The risk of male drivers being involved in a crossing collision reflects not only the effect of aging, which increases the risk starting at the age of 40-44 and rises sharply near 55-64, but also the effect of generation-specific factors for drivers who are now over 45, making the risk higher for older generations.

(3) The frequency of committing a "stop sign violation"s resulting in an accident is influenced by
generation-specific factors as well as aging.

(4) The possibility of being the primary party, i.e., the more negligent of the two parties involved in an accident, proved to be age-dependent, with that of younger and older age groups being higher and
that of 40-44 being the lowest.

(5) As many as 80% of drivers who are now 65-69 had already held a driver's license (including for mopeds and other vehicles) in their 20s. Many of today's car drivers including seniors are considered to have started driving in their 20s.

(6) There was a tremendous boost in vehicle ownership between 1955 and 1974, increasing twenty fold in 1974 and fifty fold presently, taking the 1955 figure as the baseline. During this period, the necessary measures may not have been able to keep up with the rapid growth of road traffic.

Being a safe senior driver

The reason for the higher risk of crossing collisions for senior drivers including those over 45 is, in addition to the effect of aging, the considerable difference between circumstances today and when they first started driving and developed their driving habits. Most of these drivers drove a stick shift, making it troublesome to bring their car to a complete stop at each designated place. Or maybe they haven't been able to adapt their way of driving to the changing traffic environment, even if they think they have.

Most people want to continue driving as long as possible. To be a safe senior driver, we highly recommend taking driving safety lessons and reviewing your own driving habits. There may come a time when you have to stop driving; it may be against your wishes, but it might be the wisest decision.

Institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis (ITARDA)