Wendy Squires-Magoo and driving statistics.

Disclaimer: the writer of this article is 71 years old.

The Age journalist Wendy Squires writes  Get Mr Magoo off our roads  an article based on the experience she had with her rathe who was still driving at 95.

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This follows a report that some 50 senior (aged 49 to 85) Victorian drivers died behind the wheel of a moving vehicle in 2013/2014, most as the result of medical conditions or slow-speed incidents. About 10 per cent of drivers in Victoria are over 70. More than 13,000 are in their 90s.

Squires does not give details of the report so it’s difficult to check the figures. They do seem at odds with the figures given by the TAC which tend to indicate that the problem is more serious, worth 103 fatalities in total of 230, but this means that drivers below 50 (the other half the demographic)  were involved in 117 fatalities.

Interpreting these figures needs to be done in the light of the number of drivers in each age demographic and the amount of driving each age group does which may give a more complex picture.

Age Group
Age Group 2013 2014 Change % change 5 year
average
0 to 4 0 4 4 400% 4
5 to 15 5 10 5 100% 8
16 to 17 3 4 1 33% 6
18 to 20 16 15 -1 -6% 29
21 to 25 22 31 9 41% 31
26 to 29 17 18 1 6% 20
30 to 39 29 40 11 38% 37
40 to 49 31 24 -7 -23% 35
50 to 59 29 31 2 7% 33
60 to 69 31 32 1 3% 28
70 and over 59 40 -19 -32% 48
Unknown 1 0 -1 -100% 0

Source TAC Annual road toll Calendar year to midnight 31 December 2014

But you always need to be very careful with figures. One of the arguments for keeping older drivers off the road is that their medical conditions may make it difficult for them to drive safely, they are more likely to die behind the wheel and that their reflexes are slower, making them more accident-prone.

But it’s also worth remembering that if drivers over 70 are more likely to have accidents, they are also more likely to die as a result of complications arising from existing medical conditions, weak hearts etc either after all immediately before an accident.

it’s a question of causation. We don’t know whether the accident brought about the medically related death or whether the medically related deaths brought about the accident. And finding out will be very difficult.

It is also  important to remember that while these statistics report the number of people have died in road accidents, they do not provide any information about who was at fault or predominantly at fault.

it is also useful to look at the statistics involving hospitalisation as result of road accidents.untitled

if we combine the to statistics for the 18 – 39 age groups (so that they cover roughly 20 years making them comparable with the 40 – 59 group), the total number of people in hospital in that eage group is 573 which is 50% of the total. The drivers over 60 by comparison constitute 26% of the total, roughly half that of the younger age group.

Nonetheless this does still mean that the older age group is disproportionately represented but the younger age group while constituting a greater proportion of the population does constitute a more significant risk to the general population.

But again, the demographic is older and the medical condition is not as good on average as the younger demographic, so you would expect a higher rate of hospitalisation.

There are undoubtedly horror stories of the kind Wendy Squires relates In her article and many families are faced with a difficult decision getting an aged parent to give up their driver’s license.

It’s a difficult issue which will require a more modulated answer than a blanket restriction on the driving activities of older citizens, particularly as the insurance company that was presumably behind the report that Squires quotes classifies a senior driver is one over 50.

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