Crashes take their toll on 'more frail' older drivers

A growing number of driver fatalities on Canterbury roads is being attributed to older people - but not because of their driving ability.

The New Zealand Transport Agency says more older drivers are dying on roads because they are more frail and cannot survive crashes that younger bodies can. This means they are over represented in crash statistics.

Last year, nine drivers over the age of 65 died on Canterbury roads - 31 per cent of all driver fatalities. In 2012 it was 24 per cent of driver fatalities.

NZTA southern regional director Jim Harland said: "For a similar mistake by a younger person, an older person due to their frailty will have a more serious injury or even die. This is why they show up more in injury and driver fatality statistics. It is not to do with their skill level."

New Zealand's "ageing population" meant there was a likelihood of more fatalities among the elderly.

Harland said road design in post-earthquake Canterbury needed to to be more accommodating for the elderly. "We need good design to benefit our majority population."

Age Concern chief executive Simon Templeton said that by 2035, 24 per cent of the population would be over 65, and Canterbury had the highest predicted growth rate of over 85s,"

"We do know as the brain ages the ability to process a multiple amount of things decreases, which is where intersections can be tricky. We need to address this to prevent fatalities."

That could include refresher courses for drivers on changes to the road rules, he said.

The Press