Road traffic: Seniors behind the wheel have more accidents


Seniors behind the wheel have more accidents

Road traffic: Seniors behind the wheel have more accidents-check email instead showing bird

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Source: DPA

Road traffic: Seniors behind the wheel have more accidents-wheel

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Source: DPA

The accident statistics show more and more accidents in which old drivers are involved or even to blame. A worrying trend.

W.elch drivers are unfamiliar with this: you are driving swiftly on the autobahn, the left lane is free, and speed limits have been lifted. Suddenly a car swerves from the right on an incline in order to overtake a truck moving 90 km / h at a leisurely pace of 100 km / h. Your own distance to "Sneak" shrinks alarmingly, you step on the brakes, get annoyed and grumble – with preference against those pensioners who are a permanent traffic obstacle on their Sunday drive, whose exemplary representatives you think are in front of you and would like to be banned from the streets forever.

A prejudice? Yes and no. The fact is that many people have problems with the complex challenges and contexts of driving as they age. On the one hand, this is due to the decline in reactions and eyesight, and on the other hand, the effects of drugs on perception and behavior. The transport scientist Hans-Peter Kruger from the University of Wurzburg sums it up as follows: "Driving straight ahead is not a problem. If it goes to the side, however, things get complicated. Especially at intersections, when turning, turning and changing lanes." And: "For some people, drugs become food as they age."

It is also a fact that the number of drivers over 65 involved in road accidents and those injured in them has been rising continuously for almost 20 years. Of course, this also has to do with the population pyramid in Germany. More and more elderly people (currently a good twenty percent of Germans are over 65, they make up 15 percent of all motorists), who are becoming more and more mobile, are inevitably responsible for statistically increasing numbers of accidents.

However, it is alarming that the senior citizens involved were the main culprit in 66 percent of the accidents in 2007. The group of over 75-year-olds in particular is just as at risk of accidents as that of the novice drivers between 18 and 24 years of age, who traditionally lead the statistics. In addition, older people usually drive the same and above all short distances to the doctor or go shopping. Compared with commuters who travel many kilometers on the motorway every day, their accident rate is above average.

That is why the traffic psychologist Egon Stehpan, head of the North Rhine-Westphalian senior appraiser, did not plead at the German Traffic Court Conference at the beginning of 2009 that senior citizens should be deprived of their driver’s license immediately in the event of proven performance failures. But he thinks conditions and restrictions make sense. For example in such a way that the driving license is restricted to a certain area that is well known to the driver.

The constitutional and administrative lawyer Michael Brener from the University of Jena considers the German regulations to issue car driving licenses for life and without conditions to be an obsolete model. Because the new EU driving license directive, which from 2013 provides for a driving license valid for a maximum of 15 years, also allows further changes in traffic law such as regular hearing and eye tests or the introduction of ‘driving approval zones’. In addition, it recommends that all 27 member states consider regularly checking their fitness to drive from the age of 50 and grants the option of generally withdrawing the license from drivers with, for example, persistently high blood pressure.

A so far unique national police project in Bad Salzuflen approaches the problem in a different, practice-oriented way. Seniors can test their skills in a driving simulator and learn about their weaknesses.

Wolf Kramer, for example, just hit a white car with a loud bang. Clear case of disregard: The car was coming from the right and had right of way. But the 70-year-old remains calm. He adjusts his glasses, shifts into first gear and accelerates again. Botho Eckert (76) has already strayed from the lane five times, but continues undeterred. Before the trip he had taken off his dark peaked cap – for the sake of better visibility. After 2.6 kilometers both get out. Then the joyride in the driving simulator is over.

“That was my first accident,” says Kramer, shaking his head in order to save his honor. However, the majority of seniors also have serious difficulties to cope with in real traffic. "Look bad, hear bad and move badly" – this is where traffic safety advisor Frank Walkmann identifies the main problems faced by senior citizens in road traffic. At the seminar, the police are in no way about exposing someone or deterring them from driving. “We want to take the fear away from older road users, point out deficits and combat them,” says Walkmann.

He knows from experience that even very small steps can be helpful: the seat is often incorrectly adjusted and new traffic signs are unknown. One participant once complained about the cold in the car. Walkmann patiently explained how the air conditioning system works. "They don’t know the technology on their own vehicle."

After a lecture on innovations in traffic law, the 21 senior citizens split into three groups. One discusses traffic rules, one goes on a discovery tour of the technology in their own car, the third practices adhering to speeds in the driving simulator or braking quickly when passing wild animals. One who approaches the exercise calmly is Horst Buschenfeld. The former truck driver explains that he has already spent more than five million kilometers on the road in 53 years of having a driver’s license. Nevertheless, he regularly takes part in driver safety training and courses like this one. “I have a lot of experience, but I always learn new things.” At 1.39 seconds, his reaction time is still great, the policeman judges.

Andreas Dillmann, head of the Rostock Dekra assessment center for fitness to drive, also advocates a differentiated view: "There are young 80-year-olds and old 50-year-olds."

The General German Automobile Club (ADAC) goes even further: "In contrast to novice drivers, seniors are no problem at all on the road," says Andreas Holzel. Long-term drivers made up for their deficits, for example in the area of ​​motor skills, with experience and calm. To question their fitness to drive would, in his opinion, mean depriving the elderly of their participation in the rest of life.

The ADAC traffic expert thinks that seminars like the model in Bad Salzuflen are good in terms of their approach: “A course like this definitely won’t do any harm.” Only it shouldn’t be made an obligation. Federal Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee (SPD) also sees it this way: "There will be no health exams in Germany in the future either."

In distant, but very busy Japan, a much tougher line has long been taken: everyone has to renew their driver’s license every five years, take an eye test and complete a safety course. In addition, pensioners are urged to give up the whole cardboard right away. Anyone who has this officially confirmed can count on various discounts. Shops, hotels and restaurants give discounts for "No longer a driver".

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