Elderly casualties on the rise

SINGAPORE - Are older drivers a bigger risk on the road?

Yes, according to Traffic Police figures in the last four years.

Motorists who are 60 and older form a growing pool of drivers killed or hurt in road accidents.

They accounted for 11.6 per cent of total casualties in 2009, rising to 15.6 per cent last year.

Interestingly, drivers younger than 25 - long seen by motor insurers as the riskiest group - account for a shrinking share of casualties in the same period.

But these trends do not mean older drivers are less careful on the road.

It could be that being more frail, they tend to be more easily hurt or killed in an accident than younger drivers.

The US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety made such an observation in a study done between 1993 and 1997.

It also noted that drivers between ages 75 and 79 incurred more claims for damage to other vehicles.

Singapore does not have readily available statistics to show third-party damage, injuries and deaths categorised by age.

But Singapore insurers tend to treat those between 45 and 60 as the "safest" cohort, giving them the best rates.

But the risk profile changes from 65, leading many to levy higher premiums on older drivers.

Car rental companies do the same. Most in Singapore will either refuse to lease their vehicles to elderly drivers - some as soon as they cross age 65 - or apply an insurance surcharge.

While cities generally do not discriminate against elderly drivers, some are starting to shift gears.

Early this year, Ontario's Human Rights Tribunal ruled that insurers have a right to levy higher premiums on older drivers - dismissing a discrimination charge brought by an elderly Canadian driver who had higher premiums slapped on him.

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