Keeping seniors safe on the roads

Click here to download brochure: Seniors and seat belts

Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) in partnership with Transurban has developed an informative brochure on correct usage of seat belts for seniors. This follows research that shows on average, around 250 Australians aged over 65 die every year in car crashes, and more than 4,000 are hospitalised after a crash. Injuries sustained by elderly drivers are more severe than those in younger age groups. It is estimated that injury risk is nine times higher per kilometre in drivers 85 years and older compared to drivers between 25 and 69 years of age.

Keeping seniors safe on our roads should be top of mind says Associate Professor Julie Brown, and using the seat belt correctly will help reduce the risk of injury.

“At the heart of the safe systems approach is the understanding that humans have inherent frailties, both in terms of how our bodies respond in crashes and in our behaviours. The entire road system, including the vehicles operating in the system, must take these frailties into account,” said Associate Professor Julie Brown.

“Cars are a primary means of transport for senior Australians. They provide independent living and enable social and community engagement and are particularly important where public transport is limited. Car safety is therefore a critical component of healthy ageing.”

The Transurban Road Safety Centre based at NeuRA in Randwick NSW is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that allows researchers to study the frailty of the ageing human body, and to understand how vehicles and equipment can best protect us from injury on the road.

Commenting on the education of seat belt fit and ageing, Transurban Road Safety Specialist Liz Waller said: “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.”

“As we age, our body shape changes. Research shows that variations in body shape such as increased weight or obesity, which may occur as a result of ageing, can negatively influence seat belt fit,” said Ms Waller.

Car crashes and injuries are often preventable. Innovations designed to protect the occupant, such as airbags, vehicle structure and seat belts, have improved over the past 50 years.

“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 seatbelt will only be effective if it is worn and it will be most effective when it is worn correctly,” said Ms Waller.

“Today we are launching a booklet which aims to explain how seniors can make the most of the existing crash protection systems in the car,” said Associate Professor Brown.

Research shows that correct usage of the seat belt is critical to the occupant’s safety. The goal of the brochure is to review how seat belts are designed to work, bring greater awareness to the importance of good seat belt fit and deliver tips on senior driver safety.

To get the most out of the crash protection provided in your car, here are the top five things you should know:

  1. Seat belts are highly effective and should always be worn
  2. Seat belt positioning is important to get the best possible protection
  3. Use the sash belt height adjusters to make sure the sash belt sits over the middle of the collar bone
  4. Position the lap belt low, in contact with thighs and below any belly fat
  5. If you are having comfort issues, seek advice about possible adjustments you can make to the vehicle seat

This is the first in a series of publications NeuRA is developing in partnership with Transurban, to be released over the coming years. Our aim is to provide feedback and advice to the seniors’ community about safe mobility.

We have some short sound bites available from Associate Professor Julie Brown (NeuRA) here: 

Additional digital content available on the drive