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The Older Road User - An Evaluation of The Scottish Road Safety Campaign's Initiatives in Relation to the Year of the Elderly - Research Findings

DescriptionThe initiatives were aimed at increasing the populations' awareness of the vulnerability of elderly pedestrians.
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998
Environment Research Programme Research Findings No I (1994)
The Older Road User - An Evaluation of The Scottish Road Safety Campaign's Initiatives
in Relation to the Year of the Elderly
Fiona Murray
Publisher The Scottish Office
During 1993 the Scottish Road Safety Campaign (SRSC) carried out a number of initiatives as part of the European Year of Older PeopIe and Solidarity between Generations" more commonly referred to as tile "Year of the EIderIy" The initiatives were aimed at increasing the populations' awareness of the vulnerability of elderly pedestrians. Bath drivers and elderly pedestrians were targeted by the Campaign. The effectiveness of the initiatives in achieving their aims was evaluated.
Main findings
  • A quarter of all people killed on the roads in Scotland are aged over 60 and this group accounts for 15% of all serious casualties.
  • Elderly pedestrians in Scotland are more likely to be involved in a fatal or serious road accident than their counterparts in the rest of Great Britain.
  • Of the special materials distributed tome elderly as part of the Campaign, the reflective shopping bag and pension book holder were received favourably
  • Leaflets made less of an impact. Awareness was low and elderly people confused them with other leaflets
  • Overall the SRSC initiatives were received well by elderly pedestrians. The message of the campaign served as a useful reminder, although there was a general attitude tha t they could not really be taught anything new
  • A high proportion of both drivers (75%) and non-drivers (57%) claimed to notice 'bus back advertisements'.
  • Recall of the Year of the Elderly bus back advertisement, however, was relatively low, having been noticed by 25% of drivers and 110% of non-drivers
An Ageing Population
Twenty per cent of the Scottish population are over the age of 60 and 16% are over 65 years. People are generally living longer due to improvements in health care and social conditions. It is predicted that the older age groups in the population will grow in size over the foreseeable future. The younger age groups will remain fairly static or even decrease in relation to the older age groups.
The older adults in the population tend to travel less than their younger counterparts. Entering retirement greatly reduces the amount of travel an individual does and the associated reduction in income also affects their travel behaviour. Nevertheless many older people remain active throughout their retirement years and continue to be regular road users.
Car ownership is at present relatively low amongst the retired population. This age group were not brought up in the car culture and many have therefore never aspired to owning a car. As the working population ages, however, those reaching retirement who have been car owners for most of their adult life will be more likely to continue driving into their oId age. Many will not be aware of their increasing limitations as a driver due the physical ageing process. The elderly driver may therefore be a cause for concern to road safety professionals over the coming years.
The majority of elderly people, however, do not, at present, own a car or have access to a car either as driver or passenger. Being a pedestrian and user of public transport is a part of everyday life for these older people. As they slow down, however, the road environment becomes to them a busier, congested and more dangerous environment.
Road Accidents and the Elderly
In 1992, 2832 people over the age of 60 were killed or injured in road accidents in Scotland. Of those suffering fatal or serious injuries 49% were pedestrians, 40% were car drivers/occupants and 7% were bus/coach passengers.
The over 60 age group accounts for 12% of all road accident casualties. The frailty of this age group means that the injuries sustained in a road accident tend to be more serious than for younger adults. Twenty-four percent of all road accident fatalities and 15% of all serious casualties in 1992 were accounted for by this age group.
Figures 1 and 2 show the fatality and casualty rates for the older age groups compared with the rate for the whole population. Figure 1 confirms that it is the over-70s who are at most risk of suffering a fatal injury in a road accident. Therefore, whilst older people are not necessarily more likely to be involved in a road accident than other age groups, if they are then their injuries are more likely to prove fatal.

Figure 1 -  Road Accident Fatality Rates 1992Figure 2 - Road Accident Casualties 1992

Table 1 shows the pedestrian casualty rates for all age groups. This clearly displays that the situation in respect of elderly pedestrians especially in relation to fatal and serious injuries is even worse.
Table 1: Pedestrian Casualties 1992
Rates per 100,000 population

















































When comparing casualty rates with the rest of Great Britain it can be seen that the elderly pedestrian in Scotland is more at risk than in GB as a whole.
Figures 3 shows the pedestrian fatality rates for Scotland and GB.

Figure 3 Pedestrain Fatality Rates for Scotland and GB 1992

Seventy-two pedestrians over the age of 60 were killed in accidents on Scotland's roads in 1992. This accounts for 46% of the total pedestrians killed. Scotland has higher pedestrian fatality rates than the rest of GB for all ages. The difference being most marked for the 60-69 age group.
Figure 4 shows the pedestrian casualty rates for Scotland and GB.

Figure 4 - Pedestrian Causalty Rates for Scotland and GB 1992

Scotland has higher pedestrian casualty rates than the whole of GB for all seventies of injury. The differences between Scottish and GB rates are fairly consistent over all age groups.
Pedestrian casualty rates presented in official statistics are most frequently given per 100,000 population. This however does not take into account exposure levels for different age groups. Can we assume that the elderly because they are maybe less mobile have lower pedestrian activity levels, or are they in fact exposing themselves to the most risky situations in the road environment. This is difficult to answer as very little information is collected on pedestrian exposure. A recent study on pedestrian activity and accident risk funded by the M Foundation for Road Safety Research and conducted by the University of London, Centre for Transport Studies showed that the over 65s are at greater risk of being a casualty in a road accident when taking into account their exposure levels. The accident rate per 100,000 population does not therefore provide the full picture and the fact that the elderly have lower levels of pedestrian activity means that the risks involved in them being a pedestrian are even greater than first imagined. Another interesting finding of this study was that the risk significantly increases for the elderly female pedestrian when taking exposure levels into account.
Any comparisons made between Scotland and the rest of GB in respect of road accident casualties use rate per 100,000 population as the indicator. Again this does not take into consideration the exposure levels of pedestrians in different countries. Scottish Pedestrians may be more active than those in the rest of GB and the higher casualty rates may reflect this. Similarly the Scottish pedestrian environment may contain more risks thereby resulting in the higher rates. Explaining the different rates between Scotland and GB is not therefore a straightforward or easy task.
The Scottish Road Safety Campaigns' (SRSC) Initiatives in Relation to the Year of the Elderly
During 1993, the SRSC carried out a number of initiatives as part of the "European Year of Older People and Solidarity between Generations" more commonly referred to as the 'Year of the Elderly". The initiatives were aimed at increasing the populations' awareness of the vulnerability of elderly pedestrians and both drivers and elderly pedestrians were targeted.
The campaign was in 2 phases. The first part in March 1993, involved a national bus back advertising campaign. The bus back was specifically aimed at drivers and showed 2 elderly pedestrians crossing the road and accompanied by the message "Give us a Chance".
The main part of the campaign occurred in October 1993 to coincide with the change to Greenwich Mean Time and the consequential darker evenings. A number of materials were produced for distribution to elderly pedestrians:-
  • a PVC coated shopping bag incorporating a reflective strip and the SRSC logo
  • a pension book holder with 'Take care on the Roads" message
  • bookmarker with magnifier with "Take care on the Roads" message
  • leaflets entitled "The Not So Young Pedestrian" which covered the subjects of eyesight, hearing and using pedestrian crossings.
The campaign materials were designed to be of use to the elderly person on a day-to-day basis. This was especially the case for the shopping bag. Its durability would hopefully mean that the elderly pedestrian would frequently use it and thereby increase their conspicuousness to drivers in the hours of darkness. It was also hoped that the message of the campaign to "Take Care on the Roads" would be continuously reinforced.
Distribution of the SRSC materials was the responsibility of the Regional Road Safety Officers (R.S.Os). The method of distribution varied between Regions. For some it was combined with a talk on road safety to elderly members of Luncheon Clubs, in other areas they were distributed from road safety stands set up in town centres. In all 10,000 shopping bags and similar numbers of pension book holders and bookmarkers were handed out to elderly pedestrians throughout Scotland.
How Effective were the SRSC Initiatives
The SRSC initiatives in relation to the year of the elderly were evaluated during early 1994. Were the elderly pedestrians using the shopping bags? What did they think of the campaign materials in general? How did they as a group feel about being targeted by road safety professionals? These were just some of the questions that the evaluation aimed to answer.
Additionally it was decided to look at the effectiveness of bus back advertising. A national bus back campaign is a relatively costly piece of publicity. Had any drivers noticed the bus back?
The evaluation was conducted in 2 parts to reflect the 2 phases of the campaign. The main piece of work involved conducting discussion groups with elderly people who had been targeted by their local R.S.0. and had received the campaign materials. The bus back advertising was evaluated by a survey of the general population.
The Discussion Groups
The Discussion groups explored a number of road safety issues as well as evaluating the campaign materials. Six discussion groups, typically with 6-8 members, were held at a number of locations within Central, Lothian and Dumfries and Galloway Regions. They were mediated by an experienced researcher. The findings of the discussion groups included:-
(a) Difficulties Facing Elderly Pedestrians
The main difficulties quoted during the discussion related to pavement hazards and crossing the road.
Pavement hazards such as uneven/cracked slabs, cyclists using the pavement, and slippy pavements caused by icy/wet conditions were quoted, mostly by those living in the urban areas.
The main worry regarding pavements appeared to be the fear of falling over due to the various hazards outlined.
Difficulties with crossing the road were commonplace. The general feeling was that roads were considerably busier nowadays and that the need to rush across the road meant that many elderly were frightened of falling over because of this.
Many problems were associated with using pedestrian crossings.
  • vehicles approaching the crossing too fast
  • crossing times being too short to cross without rushing
  • vehicles stopping on the crossing when congested in a failed attempt to get through before lights changed
  • drivers revving their engines to intimidate pedestrians whilst crossing.
(b) Attitudes to Road Safety Campaigns
The discussion group members considered road safety to be an important issue and that there was a need for practical help and information relating to road safety. There was a general feeling that more campaigns should be aimed at drivers to make them more aware of and considerate towards pedestrians. Although the elderly did not mind being targeted by road safety campaigns they felt that there were other members in society who needed it more, especially the young road users, drivers and pedestrians.
(c) Effectiveness of Campaign Materials
The main message of the campaign to "Take Care on the Roads" was clearly understood by those taking part in the discussion groups. There was however a general view that the majority of elderly people already did take care on the roads and that road safety campaigns merely served as a reminder to them.
Reflective Shopping Bag
All members of the groups who had received one greeted this very favourably. There was strong evidence to suggest that they were frequently used and the only complaints were from those who had not received one.
The significance of the reflective strip was not appreciated by all in the groups. However many did feel that it was an added safety dimension.
Pension Book Holder and Bookmarker
These were also received favourably. Many had put them to practical use and considered the message as a useful reminder.
Leaflet "The Not So Young Pedestrian"
There was a lot of confusion in respect of the contents of this leaflet and it was apparent that very few had actually received and read a copy of it. Overall there was a feeling that there were too many leaflets covering a wide range of subjects. Generally the groups felt that they were expected to read too much information in leaflets and when shown the campaign leaflet many thought the contents irrelevant.
Overall however the campaign materials were received well by the elderly pedestrians. The message of the campaign served as a useful reminder, although there was a general attitude that they could not really be taught anything new. The least successful of the materials was the leaflet. Awareness of it was low and it was confused with other leaflets.
Evaluation of Bus Back Advertising
Awareness of the bus back advert was measured by using questions on a regular "omnibus" survey. A total of 1,065 adults were interviewed throughout Scotland in January 94. Fifty-eight per cent of the sample were drivers. Each respondent was asked firstly whether they noticed advertising on buses and then asked to recall specific road safety bus back adverts with the assistance of prompt cards.
  • Sixty-eight per cent of respondents claimed to notice bus back adverts. Seventy-five per cent of drivers and 57% of nondrivers noticed bus back advertising.
  • The "Give us a Chance" year of elderly bus back was recalled by 19% of the respondents. Recall was different for drivers to non-drivers with 25% of drivers but only 11% of non-drivers recalling it.
  • Awareness of another road safety bus back relating to the "Speedwatch" campaign was much higher being at 68%.
Overall bus back adverts do get noticed by the general population. However it would appear that the Year of the Elderly bus back was not achieving its full potential. Reasons for this could be down to the length of time it was displayed for, or it could relate to the actual contents of the advert.
In conclusion, the elderly make up a significant but often silent proportion of road users. It is likely that this proportion will increase over the coming years, especially in relation to the older driver. It is as a pedestrian, however that the elderly are at their most vulnerable. A road accident resulting in slight injuries to a young adult pedestrian may well prove serious or even fatal if it involves an elderly person. The situation in Scotland when compared to the rest of GB is even worse. The elderly pedestrian in Scotland is more at risk than their English or Welsh counterpart. The reasons for the differences are not as yet clear and this will require investigation if Scotland's elderly pedestrians are to be protected.
The SRSC initiatives on the whole proved successful with the relatively small number who were targeted. This age group welcomed the attention of the road safety movement, although they did not feel they were being told anything new. It may be worth remembering one of the quotes from an elderly group participant "I'm only here today because I've taken care on the roads!"
'An Evaluation of the Scottish Road Safety Campaign's Initiatives in Relation to the Year of the Elderly" may be purchased (price £5 per copy).
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