Since the start of the year, 13 people have lost their lives on Lincolnshire’s roads. While undoubtedly every death is a tragedy this figure is almost four times the number of casualties we’d expect to see in the first few weeks of the year. Using the latest evidence gathered by the police and expert crash investigators, the Lincolnshire Roads Safety Partnership (LRSP) is unable to find any common factors, such as location, time, weather, etc. While analysis continues, this potential trend is at odds with the significant reduction over the last decade. In fact, 2015 saw some of the lowest numbers of serious injuries and deaths on our counties roads for many years.
In is undoubtedly too early to speculate on the trends for this year and Lincolnshire Police and the LRSP are working hard to reduce accidents and injuries on our roads. However, the overriding factor in almost all accidents is some form of driver error. Whether that be losing control of the vehicle due to speed or plain and simple failure to look clearly before pulling out at a junction, bad decisions by drivers are killing and injuring scores of people every year. Just blaming speed is not going to help reduce the tragedies that occur on our highway network, short of making everyone drive at 10mph everywhere we need to face the fact that cars do travel at speed and should be driven by people with the requisite proven ability and skills.
Can it be right that we let someone learn to drive at 17 then continue to operate a vehicle that has the capacity to kill for decades with no further assessment or intervention? First and foremost in many walks of life continuous training and evaluation is a requirement to operate equipment, for example, to be a professional lorry or bus driver you must undertake thirty-five hours of periodic training every five years to stay qualified, then once over 45 years of age must have a medical every five years.
The demographics of Lincolnshire is especially stark with potentially a quarter of the population being over 60 within the next decade. We cannot afford to shy away from the fact that as we age our reactions slow, and this undoubtedly has an impact on our driving ability. After all, would you want an 85-year-old surgeon at your operating table?
Despite dwindling eyesight, poorer reaction times and, all the other lamentable challenges which go with getting older, it’s currently down to the individual to decide when/if to stop driving.
This issue isn’t solely about older drivers, as we all know a startling number of newly qualified drivers are likely to have an accident so clearly we need to do more to ensure those that are newest behind the while are less dangerous to themselves and others. A survey in 2014 by a RIAS, a specialist insurance provider, found that a fifth of drivers over fifty felt they’d not pass a driving test if they had to take one. Surely if people don’t meet the required standard to pass the driving test they shouldn’t be allowed on the roads.
Statistically, older drivers are no more likely to be involved in crashes than other motorists, and they are less liable to take risks like speeding or driving distracted. However, according to Dave Nichols, spokesman for Brake, the road safety charity, drivers over 80 are proportionately involved in more crashes: “As we all get older factors such as deteriorating health, including eyesight and reaction times, have a significant adverse effect that outweighs having greater experience and caution.” Brake themselves have long advocated for compulsory eye tests every time a driving license is renewed, but I’d go further – why not insist everyone has to retake their test when they renew their license every ten years?