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Elderly drivers: safety expert says families face big challenge

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Families can face a challenge talking to elderly drivers about giving up driving. Photo: Getty Images.

Families can face a challenge talking to elderly drivers about giving up driving. Photo: Getty Images.

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Families can face a challenge talking to elderly drivers about giving up driving. Photo: Getty Images.

FAMILIES face a big – but necessary – challenge in talking to elderly drivers about giving up their independence behind the wheel.

But for everyone's safety the subject has to be broached, world expert on road safety David Melton told Independent Motors.

He is managing director of global safety, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety.

Mr Melton was visiting Dublin as part of his worldwide brief to reduce deaths and the risk of accidents on the road.

He said it was "not about taking elderly drivers off the road", it was about families "beginning the conversation".

He also said family doctors had a role to play in broaching the subject as many insurance companies required a fitness-to-drive cert for mature drivers.

In an interview with Motors prompted by our coverage of the issue, he said: "It is about asking them: 'How do you feel you are driving? Do you feel under pressure?'"

But he emphasised that everything should be done with respect and with the best interests of all in mind: "You suggest that maybe their lifestyle needs to change."

However, he admitted that the problem in Ireland was that there were so few alternative modes of transport for mature drivers, especially in rural areas.

And that poses a huge challenge for the wider family who may have to take over driving duties.

Mr Melton said he had already told his family they should tell him if and when they see his driving deteriorating.

"People can drive into their nineties and say 'I'm okay'. But it is inevitable that we will have less reaction, vision and anticipation – all the things that make us safer drivers."

It is a sensitive issue and judging by the amount of correspondence to Motors it is one that divides opinion.

It is likely to become a bigger issue as government statistics predict the number of people over 80 will increase from 128,000 in 2011 to 470,000 by 2046.

Irish Independent