Life-Long Safe Mobility Must Not Be Viewed as a Utopian Dream
The figures give pause for thought: according to the latest statistics published by the European Commission, almost 30 percent of all traffic fatalities in the European Union (EU) are aged 65 or over. Senior citizens also account for almost half of all the pedestrians and cyclists killed in road accidents. This makes unprotected road users a particularly significant group among senior citizens. A key factor in this is the higher level of vulnerability that comes with older age: given a similar type of accident for each group, the risk of suffering more severe or fatal injuries is greater for senior citizens than for younger people.
And while the details of the situation differ for each EU member state, it is a universal truth that the risk of being involved in a road accident is higher for older road users – both within the EU and in other parts of the world. This means we need to act fast, particularly in light of the fact that, due to the demographic shift, the proportion of all road users who class as senior citizens will continue to rise.
There are plenty of places to start, as the many examples in this report will show. Many relate to the human factor , but there are some in the fields of infrastructure and vehicle tech-nology, as well. With this in mind, one of the areas we are looking into is how assistance, information and comfort systems in vehicles can improve road safety for the 65+ age group. The answer is clear: such systems offer great potential. Within certain limitations, high-tech equipment in vehicles can help to compensate for age-related performance deficits and driver errors, thus providing a sense of increased safety.
In light of this, the fact that the General Safety Regulation (adopted by the European Commission in March 2019) will make a variety of safety-related driver assistance systems a legal requirement for new vehicles in Europe over a number of phases, starting in 2022, is a welcome development. However, it is important to bear in mind that it will take many years for these changes to truly penetrate the market, and many of the vehicles on our roads will still have few or no assistance systems.
It is also important to consider whether senior citizens even open to the idea of such systems. In order to gage the mood, DEKRA commissioned the market research and opinion polling company forsa to conduct a representative survey of around 2,000 randomly selected German motorists from all age groups. Among the many insightful results of this survey, two stand out: approximately three quarters of men and women aged 65 and over described the fact that there are assistance systems to help drivers as either “good” or “very good,” and the majority of this age group also drove vehicles equipped with individual assistance systems.
Whatever action is taken to reduce the number of senior cit-izens who suffer severe or fatal injuries in road accidents, it is crucial to ensure that we focus primarily on complex traffic situations. It is also important that everyone involved contributes to the solution of this problem. DEKRA has already been working hard on tackling this issue for many years, in a variety of ways. We consider the DEKRA Road Safety Report – which we have been publishing annually since 2008 – to be an important contribution to making mobility on the road even safer. With this latest report, we at DEKRA are aiming once again to get people thinking and provide advice for politicians, traffic and infrastructure experts, manufacturers, scientific institutions, associations, and all road users.