October 2018 News Update

  • Click here to download a pdf of the full bi-monthly Network News Update for Senior Road Safety – Kent Focus Group.
  • Click here to view the “In The Headlines” news round up.

NETWORK NEWS UPDATE No. 1

OCTOBER 2018 – BI-MONTHLY

WELCOME: Our first bi-monthly Network News Update for Senior Road Safety – Kent Focus Group and what we hope will become ‘your – the members’ networking newsletter – sharing experiences, knowledge and good practice around improving road safety for ‘seniors’ be they drivers, passengers, pedestrians or mobility scooter users.

As a group we launched on 1st May this year with our ‘one stop’ information web site SRSKent.co.uk, many talks to diverse groups of seniors have already been delivered and well received with more are in the diary.

Our official launch on Wednesday 24th October 2.00pm at the Road Safety Experience, Rochester by kind permission of Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Service – open invitation.

The News Update will be available and emailed bi-monthly in addition to three networking meetings per year at a central Kent location. Whilst we will ask you to register with us there is no membership fee, all we ask is for a commitment to improving senior road safety. Subject to space and editors discretion your networking articles will appear for free, as indeed all of our work is voluntary and given for ‘free’; this said donations towards central running costs will be welcomed. We look forward to working with you.

We will warmly welcome your contributions to the News Updates, we not only want them to create awareness around senior road safety issues for drivers, passengers, pedestrians or mobility scooter users, but to be a catalyst for discussion and action whereby if our work prevents any road accident / incident for a ‘Kent Senior’ then our purpose will have been worthwhile – that said the ultimate goal must be ZERO.

SRS KENT OBJECTIVE: For the benefit of readers discovering us (Senior Road Safety – Kent Focus Group) for the first time our primary objective is: “to create awareness of road safety issues concerning Kent’s older population be they drivers, passengers, pedestrians or mobility scooter users and to address those issues in partnership with other agencies, and thereby reduce the number of accidents overall and furthermore reverse the increases occurring commensurate with the ever expanding population”.

OUR WEBSITE SRSKent.co.uk: features an introductory home page, why there is a need for senior road safety awareness, a series of useful topic facts sheets, all important information pages covering reviews and reports for both ‘seniors’ and ‘professionals’ covering diverse aspects of senior road safety plus links for news and events and news updates – a user friendly site designed as a ‘one stop’ information resource.

SENIOR RISKS: Many studies and statistics released show that older citizens are broadly four times more likely to be involved in a safety related incident in the home or on the roads. With the numbers of older population increasing massively with a similar predicted rise in those affected by dementia; even if the ratios stay the same the numbers actually affected will rise correspondingly. We also recognise that older people do not ‘mend’ so well and in many cases recovery will not be complete; the risk of fatality doubles thereby adding to personal / family cost and to those of the already squeezed NHS and Care Services.

SENIOR PERCEPTION – v – REALITY:  For those who have not reached senior years there is a perception of what senior life entails; for those of us that are seniors we know the reality!  At 74 I do not feel or even believe I act any differently to say at 50! However if I am honest the natural ageing process which affects everybody has set in, overall fit and healthy there are some background medical issues, medication is now part of life but most noticeable is a drop in ‘stamina’ or ‘slowing up’ despite walking two or three miles a day on the dog walk.

Also despite years of extensive driving experience there is the ‘natural ageing process’ versus increasing traffic volumes, increasing traffic management complexity, more technology, more distractions such that at times one gets a feeling of information overload and the sheer task of keeping up to date with things.  What is important is to face up to and accept these challenges and in doing so think about ‘management’ and in doing so secure our independence and mobility safe into old age.

The Older Drivers Forum in Hampshire now into their sixth year have clearly demonstrated how awareness and road safety education for seniors can impact; their accident figures have reduced against a national trend of rising figures despite having the biggest senior population in the Country. Kent must follow suit.

KENT PRESS RELEASE: KCC Road Safety, Kent Police and Kent Fire and Rescue Service have issued a joint press release about the distraction danger of using hands free telephones whilst driving; this will perhaps not be so relevant to older drivers as younger counterparts, however, it does highlight the important issues of distraction around the use of technology.

Technology clearly has a part to play in modern life and becomes more advanced year on year. As a generalisation many older people having been bought up in generations without technology may not be so adept at encompassing the use and consequently may be significantly distracted when using the technology, furthermore they may assume the technology can replace the need for their overall observation and control.

There is of course useful technology which works effectively and silently in the background – ABS for example.  Automatic wipers and headlight control there are both pros and cons.  Sat. Navs a useful talking map but no more than that needing to be set before a journey commences and at all times the driver maintaining full observation and being prepared to over-ride any instruction; another similar example is parking assist.

Then there are many other technology options where one has to question any gimmick value rather than usefulness particularly if there is any distraction factor in its use. The question is if over reliance on technology is killing core skills and thereby actually increasing the risk of accident?

I recently heard about a friends visit to a new car showroom whereby the salesman eluded to for 30 minutes all of the technology on the car at the end of which the friend said when he was ready for an invalid carriage he would come back and buy one!

GOING FORWARD:  Whilst on the ‘dog walk’ on country lanes without footpaths – there is no other option in our rural locality, having reached the top of a hill, one was suddenly aware of a very close (the lane is narrow) passing car from ‘behind’. Normally you would hear engine noise of an approaching vehicle but then the penny dropped – it was a large hybrid electric vehicle and absolutely silent.

Clearly the future is going to see huge growth in the electric vehicle market and this must beg the question about rises in accident rates; this will affect all age groups buts perhaps ‘seniors’ will be at greater risk around the many facets of the natural ageing process.  Electric vehicles have of course been with us for close on a hundred years in the form of milk floats, trolley buses and small delivery vehicles but their numbers hitherto have been totally insignificant whereas in the coming decades they are set to become the ‘majority’.

AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSIONS: Many drivers switch to versions of automatic transmission in later life but more often than not will not receive any ‘top up’ tuition to make the change. There are techniques to be mastered and some important safety considerations. One prevalent factor is the non-use of either the parking brake or ‘park’ selection on temporary stopping and as a result there are many instances of runaway vehicles. Last year such an incident with a senior driver at a hospital car park ticket machine resulted in another nearby senior pedestrian being killed.

EXERCISE:  Independence and mobility are critical criteria for older living and there is extensive evidence that keeping fit and taking exercise is fundamental to the old adage ‘use it or lose it’.  In normal exercise such as walking whilst certain muscles get their ‘work out’ other muscles do not see a benefit.  We know many senior accidents result from poor observation and / or poor co-ordination  e.g. as just one example poor neck rotation and looking at road junctions.  Interestingly working with KentARA with some road shows for ‘seniors’ I came across an exercise regime called ‘Elastixs’ which I would absolutely recommend having become a regular participant – at 74 with good health and general fitness I have still benefited.

The reality is any exercise is going to be beneficial to maintaining and improving co-ordination, agility and mobility which are such important factors for getting about safely as a driver, pedestrian or mobility scooter user. More about this subject in the next issue.

MEDICAL CONDITIONS: Dementia currently attracts a lot of focus and rightly so to help those with a diagnosis ‘live well’. However there is the all-important pre-diagnosis phase, and equally there are many other medical conditions where driving, mobility scooter using or even road safety as a pedestrian could be compromised; the important message is instead of fearing the worst there may well be help from for instance organisations like South East Driveability – they understand all medical conditions, they can carry out assessments and most importantly know about all available options to help.