A Queensland University Of Technology (QUT) study has found that encouraging older drivers to ‘self-regulate’ their driving posed less problems and was less-discriminatory than age-based testing regimes.
The university’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety Queensland (CARRS-Q), found a person’s age doesn’t necessarily reflect their driving ability, and that testing programs based on age didn’t result in improved road safety.
CARRS-Q’s Dr Ides Wong said age-based testing lacked the ability to properly judge an older driver’s performance.
"People do not wake up on their 75th birthday a worse driver than they were the day before, which is what current age-based testing assumes," Dr Wong said.
"We know that as people age, their physical, cognitive and sensory abilities decline. However, aged-based testing for older drivers, although popular within legislative and public domains, is problematic because we lack consensus as to which age-based tests can accurately predict a driver's performance."
Dr Wong said that older drivers who took part in the study revealed that they were already self-regulating their driving behaviours, such as restricting the distances they covered or avoiding driving at night.
The study used in-car monitoring to collect data on the participant’s driving habits and the time of day they were choosing to travel.
"This suggests that rather than discriminating against older drivers because of their age by restricting their way of getting around town, we could aim to improve their safety, as well as mobility, by supporting them to self-regulate their driving behaviours," Dr Wong said.
Dr Wong said as the world's adult population was rapidly aging, managing the safety of older drivers was fast becoming a critical social and public health issue, balanced with maintaining their independence.
The study found older drivers had a higher collision rate per kilometre, which was somewhat offset by the fewer kilometres they were diving, giving older drivers a reputation they didn’t deserve.
Dr Wong said the study found older drivers who had support from a ‘driving partner’ would often self-regulate to share the driving load, and that improved access to public transport reduced the time older drivers needed to spend behind the wheel.
The study found that a gradual decline in driving over a longer period of time reduced the impact on an older driver’s independence when they eventually retired from driving.