A new advertising campaign is underway in South Australia to encourage elderly road users to question whether they are still fit to drive after statistics have shown they are over-represented in serious injuries and lives lost on the state’s roads.
The mass media campaign, developed by the South Australian Police (SAPOL) Media Road Safety Unit, titled “Don’t Stop Driving By Accident,” aims to educate senior drivers and their families to be alert to signs of increased vulnerability on the road and recognise when it might be time to leave the car in the garage.
According to a SAPOL media release on Friday, while people over 70 make up only 13 percent of the population, they account for 23 percent of deaths and 13 percent of serious injuries on South Australian roads, with an average of 23 lives lost and 94 serious injuries amongst older drivers each year between 2015 and 2019.
Assistant Commissioner Ian Parrott said that despite the fact that elderly drivers tend to be more cautious and are involved in fewer crashes, the crashes they do have often result in more serious consequences.
“Older road users can be experiencing cognitive decline, reduced physical capability or responsiveness, fragility and other medical challenges, all of which compound the inherent dangers of using the road,” he said.
“We want to empower older drivers and their families to talk about reducing the risks of driving if it’s becoming more stressful, more scary and therefore, less safe.”
Parrott added that the campaign shows the utmost respect for elderly South Australians, taking into account their desire for independence and not blaming or judging them.
The ads, which went live on Sunday across TV, print, radio, and general practitioner’s (GP’s) clinics, address scenarios that may lead to heightened stress for elderly drivers, such as driving at night, driving in bad weather, or driving on busy roads.
Elderly people, their family members, and their medical carers are asked to consider avoiding such high-risk situations or choosing alternative means of transport.
SAPOL consulted SA’s peak body representing older people, the Council on the Ageing (COTA), which has expressed its support of the campaign’s approach.
COTA Chief Executive Jane Mussared said that elderly people are accustomed to making big decisions.
“Reviewing our driving and reducing, changing or stopping driving is one of those big decisions,” she said.
“We are very pleased that the campaign appeals directly to the good sense of older drivers.”
She went on to say that the campaign acknowledges that freedom and mobility are highly valued among older people and that modifying driving behaviour doesn’t have to come at the expense of lifestyle quality.
Assistant Commissioner Parrott said the campaign underwent comprehensive testing with target audiences and was well received by elderly drivers and their adult children.
“Importantly, research respondents saw the ads as relevant and relatable,” he said.
“The people surveyed said they could see themselves and/or their parents experiencing these scenarios and that the ads felt credible and respectful.”
Parrott added that SAPOL is presenting options that will assist in ensuring a vulnerable group of road users is kept as safe as possible.