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Our ageing population-how will it affect future road safety action requirements?
Introduction: The populations of Australia and New Zealand are ageing. Older people generally have similar safety records as middle-aged people when crash rates per time spent travelling are compared. However older people are more fragile and do have different travel and crash involvement patterns. Addressing these differences may require changes in the mix of safe system road safety strategies and measures.
Methods: Road Safety Statistics projections have been based on current safety levels applied to official Australian and New Zealand population projections. Middle-range population age projections have been used for both countries. Separate analyses were also conducted at a regional level for both countries. Projected fatalities for both countries have been calculated using two differing bases. First, actual overall per-population fatality rates have been used in conjunction with total population projections 2011–2056 to project future ‘overall’ fatalities. Secondly, actual age-specific per-population fatality rates have been used in conjunction with age-specific population projections to project ‘age-specific’ fatalities for the same period 2011–2056.
Results: For both countries, assuming overall and age-specific death rates do not change, there will be minimal differences between the overall and age-specific fatality projection for 2011-2056. However, considerable regional variations in older road users’ contribution to the future road toll are expected, due to differences in the distribution of different age groups within the two countries.
Conclusions: The mix of measures to maintain and improve road safety will need to change in response to the ageing population. The appropriate mix for a given geographical region in either Australia or New Zealand will need to be related to the age-distribution in that area. It is anticipated that highway design measures tailored to the requirements of older people will become more important as will the design of vehicles to avoid crashes and protect a more fragile population of road users, including those who are not vehicle occupants. Older, fragile, pedestrian numbers will increase considerably and measures will be required to protect them from motor vehicle injuries and also from non-motor vehicle injuries sustained on roads and road sides.