Program to tackle rising number of pedestrian deaths among older Aussies

A training program to enhance pedestrian safety among older Aussies is being developed by the Australian Catholic University, which aims to educate people about traffic-related threats.

The project is supported by the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), which has earmarked $820,000 for the research over the next two years.

In the 12 months to June 2023, there were 161 pedestrian deaths in Australia – a 10.3 per cent increase on the previous year.

Just over one-third (36 per cent) of those deaths were people aged 70 and over and one in four (24 per cent) were aged over 80.

The plan is being implemented as part of the National Road Safety Strategy to address the vulnerability of senior road users.

ACU health sciences researchers will develop a tailored online training program for people aged over 60 to enhance their hazard perception skills and reduce the risk of harm.

The program is the first of its kind in Australia and will use 3D simulations alongside physical and cognitive training to remind older adults how to respond safely to traffic-related threats while walking.

Dr Joanne Bennett, lead researcher on the project, says she hopes the online platform will achieve significant advancements in road safety and hopefully reduce the pedestrian road toll.

“This cutting-edge platform enables older adults to enhance their hazard perception, physical and cognitive skills,” she says.

“The ultimate goal is to improve pedestrian safety and, potentially, driving safety as well.

“By supporting older adults in understanding and improving their core pedestrian-safety skills, this pioneering initiative aims to help them live long, safe, and independent lives.”

The AAA funds research and practical activities that deliver real benefits for road users and the community. Michael Bradley, managing director of AAA, says the project addresses a key problem with road safety in Australia.

“This is a promising project that could prevent many deaths and injuries,” he says.

“Australian road death numbers are rising and our population is ageing. ACU’s work is addressing an important need and a major gap in the nation’s road safety measures.”

The online platform will be built with the assistance of researchers from RMIT University. RMIT Associate Professor Jonathan Duckworth says the program represents a new line of thinking when it comes to preventable road deaths.

“Combining 3D simulated hazardous roadway scenarios with gaming elements to enhance user engagement and motivation will provide a novel approach to tackle the pressing issue of pedestrian injuries and fatalities among the ageing population in Australia,” he says.

Have you had any near misses as a pedestrian? Do you think this training program will help? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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