The BBC has formally apologised for wrongly claiming that ‘pensioners’ have more accidents than other drivers. 

The claim was made in the BBC1 documentary Taking the Keys Away, which first aired in November 2010. In fact, drivers over 65 are no more likely to have an accident than any other age group, according to the Department of Transport. It is young male drivers who are most likely to be involved in traffic accidents.

The apology, following a complaint by the charity Independent Age, comes just months after presenter Miriam O’Reilly won a complaint for age discrimination against the BBC.

Independent Age Director of Policy, Simon Bottery, said: “This was not an off-the-cuff remark by a presenter on live TV but a serious factual error in a documentary that was months in the making. The myth that older people are dangerous drivers is easily discounted yet no one in the BBC bothered to check it. The BBC should not be in the business of reinforcing untrue stereotypes about older people.”

 In its statement, the BBC’s Head of Editorial Complaints, Fraser Steel, said: “I hope you will accept my apologies, on behalf of the BBC, for the breach of standards in relation to accuracy which your complaint helped us to identify.”

Older drivers in the UK

· Requirements on older drivers: An older person’s driving licence entitlement will expire when they reach the age of 70 and if they want to continue to drive, the entitlement will need to be renewed by the DVLA.

· Loneliness and isolation: The RAC suggests: “Maintaining independent mobility in old age, providing it is safe to do so, is of fundamental importance. If access to services and social contacts is curtailed, people may find they are cut off from the very aspects of life that made their retirement years so much better than those of previous generations.” (RAC Foundation, Maintaining safe mobility for the ageing population, April 2010).

· A loss of independent mobility in old age can actually lead to mental and physical decline  (Marottoli et al, 1997).

· Location: 28% of rural households do not have access to a supermarket within 4km.

· Safety:From the evidence available it is possible to deduce that older people are as safe behind the wheel as the rest of the population. Contrary to popular belief the majority of older drivers have good driving records. Up to age 80, most older drivers appear to perform as well as middle-aged motorists and after this age only a small minority of active older drivers, often travelling less than approximately 2000 miles per year, are at an elevated risk on a per mile basis (Mitchell, 2010). The fatality rate per driving licence increases with age because as people get older they become increasingly frail, and so are more vulnerable to injury when involved in an accident.” (RAC Foundation, Maintaining safe mobility for the ageing population, April 2010).

For media enquiries, or for further comment from Simon Bottery, contact Rebecca Law on 020 7605 4291 or rebecca.law@independentage.org.uk . For out of hours media inquiries, call 07545 209 589.

Notes to EditorsAbout Independent Age

 Independent Age is a unique and growing charity: a support community for thousands of older people across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

 We offer a helping hand from a trusted friend, tackling older people’s poverty and loneliness by offering information, advice and friendship.

 For more information visit: www.independentage.org.uk   

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