Researchers at Leeds University have concluded that age has a big bearing on how we drive and explains why elderly drivers hug the centre line. The study also suggests that this is because they are subliminally programmed to be conservative when they are behind the wheel.
The researchers feel that as drivers get older they will develop a tendency to maintain a more central path as this makes them feel safer while driving. Although this safety mechanism has for a long time frustrated others on the road who want to overtake, it does help the elderly motorists cope better. The research was done using a driving simulator which took them down different kinds of virtual winding roads. There were two different ages groups tested, the over 60s and 18 to 40. Results showed that the older group was more likely to stick to the middle of the road and only cut the corners when they were forced to drive faster, while the younger contingent took many more risks. This is also why there is a huge difference in prices when both age groups are looking for cheap motor car insurance each year.
Dr Richard Wilkie, who supervised the research, said “As you age your motor ability declines and this seems quite a good way for the brain to compensate for that. We get slower and more variable in our actions; there is just a bit more uncertainty. The fact older people put themselves in the middle of the road means their system is aware of that and it is much safer in the middle of the road than on the side. The trend would be less noticeable on motorways, which are designed to be wide and safe, but would be quite distinctive on a winding country lane where there are more bends and fewer road markings.”
A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers confirmed that on average older drivers had less accidents and so got cheaper car insurance.