Identifying and designing for the needs of older road users

The number of older road users is continuously increasing over time. Whilst much research focuses on the likely impact on road safety, little work has been carried out examining the impact on older people themselves of their declining ability to cope with the road environment. Additionally, it is known that because of their increased frailty older drivers are more at risk of sustaining a fatal or serious injury than younger roadusers. Consequently older people often feel pressured by family members, health practitioners or an increasing inability to deal with traffic conditions, into giving up driving in favour of some other form of transport. However, the subsequent effect of this may actually be to increase the risk exposure of older people. The aim of this study was to use an accident-independent approach to collect detailed information on the interaction between behaviour, perceived and actual risk and use of transport systems, using both quantitative and qualitative techniques. A focus group and interviews were conducted with older road-users to gain an initial insight into their experiences and perceptions of safety whilst using the UK road infrastructure (including roads, pavements, cycle tracks, pedestrian crossings etc.). Additionally, analysis was undertaken of UK exposure data and casualty rates for older road users. The qualitative and quantitative data sources were compared and contrasted. Older people felt at risk using the road system, and many of these perceptions were upheld according to the statistical reports. Not all of the issues raised by older road-users can be dealt with by improving design, but this study presents a set of recommendations, which, if implemented would increase the safety of all road users.