Around 250 Australians aged over 65 die in car crashes every year and more than 4,000 are hospitalised. It’s estimated the injury risk is nine times higher per kilometre for drivers aged over 85 than their younger counterparts.
Drivers aged over 70 account for 14 per cent of driver fatalities and there is a high rate of seat belt-fit problems among this group, according to Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and the Transurban Road Safety Centre.
That’s why NeuRA and Transurban have developed an information booklet specifically on the correct use of seat belts for seniors.
The guidelines were developed using high-tech equipment at Transurban, including a crash test sled and cameras that can record up the 1,200 frames per second, to help researchers to understand how to best protect frail older bodies from injury on the road.
Benefits of cars for older Australians
Associate Professor Julie Brown of NeuRA says cars are important for older people because they can help them retain independence and provide a gateway to social and community engagement.
“Car safety is therefore a critical component of healthy ageing,” she says.
Transurban Road Safety Specialist Liz Waller says body shape changes with age and factors like increased weight or obesity, that can occur with ageing, can affect seat belt fit.
“Mobility is so important for healthy ageing, so one of our key focus areas is understanding how we can keep seniors as safe as possible, so they can maintain this mobility as they age,” she says.
“The vehicle structure and the airbags will work in a crash in the way they are designed to work regardless of any action by drivers and passengers. However, the seat belt will only be effective if it is worn and it will be most effective when it is worn correctly.”
The brochure is the first in a series of publications that aims to provide information for seniors about the correct use of existing crash protection systems in the car.
Quick Tips for safe seat belt use by seniors
- Always wear one
- Make sure the sash belt sits over the middle of the collar bone
- Position the lap belt low in contact with thighs and below any belly fat
You can download the brochure here.
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