The experts who took part in today’s symposium on “Driving in your 70’s and 80’s. Why not?”, organised by the abertis foundation, argued for establishing mechanisms for coordination between the different Traffic and Health authorities at both regional and national level in the renewal of driving licences for people over 65 years old.
In the context of an ageing Spanish population, the abertis foundation, as part of its Road Safety Programme, organised today’s symposium in Barcelona in order to discuss mobility for older people, whether as pedestrians, drivers or occupants of a vehicle. The meeting brought together political and institutional representatives, professionals from different health spheres and road safety experts.
Coordination between authorities in renewing driving licences
Pere Navarro, Spanish director general of Traffic, highlighted the need to establish systems for coordination with the Health authorities in order to obtain detailed information about the state of health of a driver aged over 65 before renewing their driving licence.
He also stated that driving cannot be restricted on the basis of age, “as it depends on each individual’s physical and metal state,” and there is a need to “guarantee safe mobility for this group by creating safer environments.” Pere Navarro appealed to “each individual’s responsibility to themselves and their family in deciding when they are no longer in a fit state to drive.”
For his part, Joan Aregio, director of the Catalan Traffic Service, also spoke in favour of setting up a system for sharing medical histories, with the aim of guaranteeing that this group “can exercise their right to drive safely,” without this involving any “infringement of other people’s rights.”
Miquel Roca i Junyent, president of the abertis foundation, argued for “continuing training of drivers”, as well as the role of road traffic education within the specific group of the over-65s.
The participants in the symposium also advocated the implementation of environmental measures to make driving easier, such as better signposting (especially at key points, such as roundabouts and junctions), as well as fitting vehicles with new technology and more specific aptitude tests.
Collisions with pedestrians, one of the main causes of accidents
Xavier Almirall, director of the Catalan Road Safety Plan Office (Catalan Traffic Service), emphasised the increase in deaths from collisions with pedestrians in Catalonia among those aged over 65, which was 102% in 2010.
For her part, Clara de Yzaguirre, director of the Barcelona City Council Mobility Plan, indicated that collisions with pedestrians in the city account for 10% of accidents among the over-60s. The main causes are ignoring traffic lights and crossing the road without using pedestrian crossings.
At European level, the number of accidents involving pedestrians is much higher among older people than among other age brackets, according to Ana Isabel Blanco, head of the Planning And Participation Department of the National Road Safety Observatory (DGT).
A growing group
According to figures from the Spanish General Directorate for Traffic (DGT), people aged over 65 make up nearly 10% of the 30 million drivers in Spain, and demographic forecasts indicate that this group will grow in the next few years. The Road Safety Observatory also states that more than 90% of drivers carry on driving after the age of 60.
Between 2008 and 2010, nearly 7,000 people aged over 65 were the victims of traffic accidents in Catalonia on urban and country roads, with a total of 213 deaths. Among these deaths, some 40% were drivers, while a further 40% were pedestrians and 20% passengers in a vehicle. While the fall in mortality on the Catalan road network was around 60% over the last decade, in the case of people aged over 64 the fall was smaller, at just 48%.
The abertis foundation
The symposium today was part of the abertis foundation’s Road Safety Programme, structured in four broad lines of action: road traffic education in schools (aimed at children between 8 and 12 years old); educational and awareness-raising activities, such as the “You’ve got one life left – don’t throw it away on the road” campaign for young people aged between 18 and 30; backing research work; and organising specialist symposia.
In this respect, the abertis foundation is a pioneer in running an information and awareness-raising scheme in the area of road safety among older people.
Apart from its efforts in the field of road safety, the abertis foundation also works to foster research into the impact of major infrastructures on the regions, especially on the population, economy and environment. The foundation is one of the responses to its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility by abertis, one of the top international transport and communications infrastructure management groups.