Pensioner-friendly roundabouts could replace dangerous T junctions says the Daily Telegraph headline. It’s reporting recommendations from the Older Drivers Taskforce which include more use of segregated slip roads, more visible signage and more traffic lights at crossroads.

It’s a logical step, given there could be 8.5 million drivers aged 70 or older in 20 years time. Why not make the roads safer for everyone with simple adaptations?

But I suspect the main reaction to making roads safer for older drivers will be, “if they can’t cope, they shouldn’t drive at all”. Although they have similar collision rates to middle-aged ones, and young drivers have proportionately more accidents, calls to get older drivers off the roads are common. In fact, stuck behind a slow or dithering elderly motorist, most of us have probably thought if not expressed something similar!

But there are two issues here: driving safely and driving quickly.

Drive safely

Safe driving requires good eyesight, technical skill and mental capacity. If these deteriorate too far, old people shouldn’t drive. Hopefully we know when we reach that stage, it’s hard for someone else to tell us. Having a compulsory sight test at 60 as recommended in this report would be helpful. But we can also improve safety with the better signs and junctions mentioned in the report. It benefits everyone, not only older drivers.

Get a move on

The other issue is driving quickly. Our reactions get slower as we get older and a lot of us become more cautious. Maybe we don’t judge speed and distances as well as we used to. So to be safe, we slow down. And then we get the hostility because we’re holding other people up.

Except, who do the roads belong to? They’re there for us all to get around. The lorry driver, the taxi driver, the commuter, the health worker, the emergency services. The parent or grandparent taking kids to school, the shopper, the tourist, the person visiting friends or family. Yes, slower drivers need to be aware of drivers on deadlines and get out of their way if possible. But we all have an equal right to use the road.

Share the Roadshare_the_road_sign21552

Touring Canada recently, I liked their Share the Road campaign targeted at motorists and cyclists. It’s a general reminder to think of other road users and motorists really are considerate – outside the big cities, anyway. Even if they’re the only car on the road, they stop to let a pedestrian cross.

I don’t expect to be driving in twenty years time. I’ll be in my driverless car, not only taken to the shops but reminded what I went there to buy. But in the meantime, I hope this report’s recommendations are implemented to keep us all on the move more safely.

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