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Study backs improved road safety for elderly

In 2004 two thirds of pedestrians killed on Swiss roads were over 65

(Keystone)

The elderly are much more likely to be victims of accidents than cause them, according to a study by the Swiss transport and environment association.

It warned on Wednesday that the general public had a distorted picture of older drivers as a major cause of road accidents and called for more to be done to help older people with road safety.

The organisation said such measures were crucial as the number of older drivers is expected to rise in the future due to the ageing population.

According to the "The elderly and road safety – analysis to prevention" report, older people were often victims of accidents - as drivers and especially as pedestrians.

In 2004 two out of three pedestrians killed on Swiss roads were over 65 years old, it said.

Those aged 80 to 84 were eight times more likely to be injured on the roads than those aged 40 to 44, and in 72 per cent of all road accidents the elderly driver was not to blame.

The environmental lobby group said the higher accident statistics resulted mainly from elderly people's poorer vision, health problems and limited ability to judge speeds, making it harder for them to avoid other people's mistakes.

It said it was therefore essential that measures were taken to improve road safety for this age group.

Michael Rytz, the author of the report, said the most pressing needs were to simplify and slow down traffic systems.

Changes

Improvements should also be made to pedestrian crossings, such as increasing the time the lights stay green to allow more time for people to cross and installing traffic islands in the middle of crossings.

Special attention should also be paid to the main roads, where elderly drivers tended to encounter the most difficulties, he added.

The report claimed that the elderly develop their own coping strategies. Most knew their weaknesses and adapted their behaviour to reduce risks by driving much less at night, in poor weather conditions or when traffic was heavy.

It stressed new measures were necessary because by 2036 the number of people aged over 65 will have increased by 50 per cent and those in possession of a driving licence will have doubled.

"For many elderly people public transport is the safest and most common way of getting about," said the organisation's Adrian Schmid. "Public transport should be promoted and its use made easier for old people".

Schmid added that elderly drivers should also be encouraged to think long and hard about when to call it a day and hand in their licence.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The early 1970s were the worst years for road accidents when the annual average was around 35,000.

The highest number of road fatalities was also registered during this period, with a record 1,773 deaths in 1971.

The number killed in road accidents has been declining steadily since 1995 when almost 700 people died.

In 2005 409 people were killed (-20%) and 5,059 injured as a result of road accidents.

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Key facts

In 2004 122 people over-65 died on Swiss roads, including 59 pedestrians, 35 drivers, 17 cyclists and 6 motorcyclists.
According to Wednesday's report, 62 per cent of pedestrians and 40 per cent of cyclists killed on the roads were 65 or over.

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