Talk: the age-old question

The Age Old Question, that was the title of the talk given at the November general meeting of Todmorden U3A. However, since the speaker was from the Institute of Advanced Motorists, members were not expecting a profound, philosophical lecture. They might however, have gone into the meeting fearing they may have to hand in their driving license. What they got was an informative and interesting talk with nuggets pertinent to drivers of all ages. And reassurance that they could probably hang on to their license. Members also got a couple of films thrown in for good measure.


Ian Andrew is Senior Motorcycle Observer for the Rochdale branch of the IAM and was accompainied by their Chairman, Eileen Taylor and Club Secretary John Bradshaw. Ian’s favoured form of road transport is motor cycling and it was from this perspective he gave his talk. However, he is a car driver as well and the principles of each mode are virtually the same. It came as no surprise to his audience when they heard that older drivers are safer drivers – they are more cautious. They less likely to exceed the speed limit, brake suddenly or their driving be impaired by alcohol.


Failed to look properly’ is the most common factor leading to accidents among all age groups but is particularly high among drivers over 70. Ian reassured his audience by pointing out that this is something that can be easily remedied. Other factors that appear in the statistics of older drivers involved in accidents include: failure to judge the other car’s path or speed; poor turning or manoeuvering; loss of control; illness or disability; nervousness, uncertainty or panic. Driver and rider error or reaction factors are recorded more frequently in accident statistics than other types. This is the case for all drivers.


Other good news for older drivers is that research has revealed that reaction times do not differ much between age groups, although they are slower amongst older drivers. This is compensated for by the fact that they are slower drivers. An area that needs attention comes with the care that drivers take when turning onto a road into traffic. It is highest amongst the youngest group of drivers, who look three times as often as older drivers – surprised, reader? Goes against the stereotype, perhaps. This declines with age and is worst amongst older drivers, again this can be remedied, although older drivers can have difficulty coping with the traffic environment.


How did Ian get involved with IAM? When she reached the age of 18, Ian’s daughter announced to her parents that she was going to get a motor bike. Trepidation on the part of Ian and his wife. After considering the options, Ian decided that the best one was for him to get a motor bike so that he could talk with his daughter about the craft of motor cycling on equal terms. Where to learn? With the IAM. Ian realised while taking their course that he had much to learn and bought a book on road craft.


Ian didn’t gloss over the fact that most if not all drivers have exceeded the speed limit. He stressed though, that some accidents are caused by driving at the wrong speed for the conditions. Whilst a driver may not be speeding acording to the designated limit, for example, driving at thirty past a school when the children are coming out, this is not driving at the appropriate speed for the conditions. 95% of crashes are due to driver error. Crashes – Ian always used that word advisedly, there are no accidents. Keeping one’s vehicle up to scratch helps, too, Ian said. Keep windows clean and wipers working properly, especially at this time of year with the sun low in the sky.


Ian showed a film he made, shot from a camera on his bike. He tallked his audience through the journey, commenting on his manoeverings and the reasons for them.


In talking about the factors of health and fitness, Ian pointed out the neck fexibility reduces with age, thus reducing the ability to look to each side. He also gave a tip for testing one’s peripheral vision. Using the index fingers, raise them each side of the head to eye level, behind one’s vision and slowly move them forward. The point at which they come into sight indicates one’s peripheral vision capacity. The value of convex mirrors were mentioned and Ian said that they are an asset but take getting used to as the images are smaller, initially leading to misjudgement of the distance of vehicles behind.


Ian talked about what drivers could expect from the IAM training. Comments on driver performance are given in a matter-of-fact, non critical way and one can take the test as many times as is necessary. For more information on IAM and the research they undertake, go to Ian belives that tailored driving assesments are needed because of the variation in individual drivers of all ages.


The first film shown was made in the 1930s and entitled Your Driving Test. Ian told his audience it was funny and it was. Being a period piece, trilbys and raincoats were to the fore and the driving practices owed more to slapstick than “this is how you should do it”.


So, some fun in addition to a talk which was not just interesting and informative but with useful content as well.