There were 550 serious accidents last year where the driver was over aged 70 and where driver was either killed or badly hurt, reports the Institute of Advanced Motoring . That statistic represents 8% of the national total of 7,035 similar accidents. That means that the over 70’s’s have more, very serious accidents per mile than any other sector of the population. This view is supported by the Association of British Insurers whose research shows that drivers aged over 70 are 13% more likely claim on their insurance than the drivers aged between 40 and 50.
As the number of elderly drivers will double during the next ten years, this represents a problem for elderly drivers and their families – not to mention the insurance industry, police and indeed all of the emergency services!
You can probably predict the response from the insurance industry. Many insurance companies already reckon that drivers over 80 are as high a risk as the under 25’s – and charge premiums to match! Some are even progressively loading premiums once the driver reaches 60. Then at 70, you’ll find that many insurance simply refuse to offer cover. Norwich Union and Esure won’t quote after 70 and by the time the driver reaches 80, the field narrows to specialised insurers who insure elderly drivers. Help the Aged and Age Concern both market policies that have no upper maximum age. Cornhill only accepts new policyholders up to 84 but if you’ve been insured by them for a few years, there’s no upper age limit. RIAS and Saga are also pleased to consider older drivers.
As the price of car insurance is based on historical claims experience, a 75 year old male driver can expect to pay at least 33% more than if he were aged 50. By the time the driver reaches 80 the premiums hit boy racer levels! So if you’re in your early 50’s keep smiling at the lowest premiums you’ll ever experience – they won’t last forever!
And the fairer sex fare even worse. Whilst younger women are renowned for their safe driving, they become more accident-prone as they get older. Whereas male drivers improve with age. (Where have we heard that before!) As a result, elderly women drivers pay the highest rates for car insurance.
It’s a biological fact that eyesight and reaction times worsen as age creeps on. And with traffic becoming heavier and road networks ever more complex, elderly drivers can more easily become disorientated and confused. Even a fraction of a second’s delay can make the difference between an accident and a near miss. Insurers are reacting by insisting that more elderly drivers take a medical before agreeing to provide insurance. The best advice is to build up a no claims record and as soon as possible and buy No Claims Protection. This protection cost a bit more but it’s well worth the money. Then make sure you pay for any small bumps yourself.
But there are some simple steps that older drivers, and indeed all drivers, can take to reduce the likelihood of them having an accident and thereby making themselves more insurable. It’s often more about those little things and being alert to likely problems. For example, car parks are a breeding ground for small accidents. Knowing that take more care. Before you get back into your car, walk round it to see how much room you’ve got. Then edge out carefully making sure that other drivers in the car park aren’t driving into the area you’re moving into. Then, if advancing years has stiffened you neck and all-round visibility is a bit more difficult, take special care at junctions and when reversing. Remember to move you head and swivel your shoulders – that way you’ll increase your sweep of vision.
Many of the policies for older motorists contain special provisions designed to assist them. On Saga’s policy for example, ex company car drivers can use any no claims record they’d built up and if a couple are insured and the main driver decides to quit driving, then the spouse can take over the no claims record. Other policies also provide full insurance cover for anyone who takes over driving in an emergency. Cornhill will even payout £250 if the DVLA stops you from driving for health issues associated with age.
In moves to diminish the numbers of accidents involving the elderly, the UK Government is investigating the issue of deteriorating health amongst elderly drivers. It seems to be considering the idea of obligatory health checks for elderly motorists. At the same time some local councils are introducing initiatives of their own. Torbay council has launched a scheme to encourage families and GP’s to take more responsibility for encouraging elderly drivers who are not really fit drive, to give up. A road safety spokesperson for Torbay council said, “The problem is that the elderly can’t always see themselves when it’s really time to give up driving so those closest to them must take responsibility for that.”
In the meantime, a survey carried out by the Institute of Advanced Motorists confirms that older motorists are aware that they represent an increased accident risk. Seven out of ten older drivers surveyed said they would like to take a refresher course for motorway driving skills and six out of ten wanted to improve their performance at junctions and on unlit roads. In response to these issues, the Institute has extended its advanced tests to older non-members to encourage them to improve and build up confidence. The tests also help spot any serious problems that should encourage the driver pack up driving.