High Risk of Accidents Caused by People’s Behavior
Violating another vehicle’s right of way, failing to adjust your speed, driving too close to the vehicle in front, driving under the influence of alcohol, being distracted by smartphones or other electronic communication systems: These are just some of the ways in which the ‘human factor’, i.e. people’s own behavior, plays a major role in road accidents. “Across Europe, almost 90 percent of accidents are caused by human error,” reports Markus Egelhaaf, accident researcher at DEKRA. Young drivers and senior citizens are particularly affected by this issue. As shown in DEKRA’s Road Safety Report 2021 entitled “Old-Age Mobility”, driver errors by the 65+ demographic are often caused by their restricted physical movement and by their slower reactions.
- Young drivers and senior citizens are particular risk groups
- Complex traffic situations are often challenging for older people
- DEKRA Road Safety Report 2021 puts “Old-Age Mobility” in the spotlight
If we look at the accidents caused by car drivers’ errors, we see that the ability to handle complex traffic situations plays an increasing role as we move up the age groups. This is particularly true when it comes to violations of rights of way in out-of-town areas and on freeways. In 2019, for example, these accounted for less than ten percent of accidents in the 18-to-24 demographic but rose to just under 25 percent by the time we reach the 75+ demographic. The opposite trend can be observed for accidents caused by a failure to adjust the speed. This error caused around 30 percent of accidents in the 18-to-24 demographic but dropped to approx. 10 percent in the 75+ demographic. In built-up areas, too, driver errors made in complex traffic situations also become a major factor as drivers get older. Moreover, we can see a clear increase in the number of driver errors made against cyclists and pedestrians in built-up areas. In contrast, this only plays a very minor role overall in non-built-up areas, which reflects the fact that these two groups spend less time exposed to other road users in such locations.
For example, as people become older their physical movement becomes more difficult, which causes problems with looking over their shoulder, turning their head quickly, or changing where they are looking. Overall, they also have slower reactions, which is often exacerbated by the influence of medication. As our bodies age, we cannot process the same amount or complexity of information as before. When driving, this can lead to issues such as tiredness or mental stress more quickly. The ability to correctly judge speeds and distances also decreases. However, it is precisely these abilities that are required in complex traffic situations, such as at confusing intersections, when turning, or when encountering cyclists or pedestrians.