Older driver fitness to drive – reconciling mass data and individual cases in policy and practice

King, Mark J. (2016) Older driver fitness to drive – reconciling mass data and individual cases in policy and practice. In Sixth International Conference on Traffic and Transport Psychology (ICTTP2016), 2-5 August 2016, Brisbane, Qld. (Unpublished)


Public discourse on older driver fitness to drive often focuses on individual cases, with a leap to broad and often draconian policy recommendations such as annual mandatory testing of drivers over a certain age. Research into mass crash data demonstrates an overall increase in risk after a certain age, however the risk is moderated by factors such as the low mileage bias. Numbers of very old drivers are still quite low, and representation of older drivers in crash statistics is generally on par with their population representation, suggesting that the “older driver problem” is more a matter of perception than reality. Furthermore, research into mandatory driver testing and a range of other measures aimed at older drivers does not suggest that they have any benefits beyond the threat of scrutiny. At the same time, it is indisputable that skills and abilities involved in safe driving decline with age, albeit with large variation between individuals. This has tended to point older driver policy and practice towards combining reliance on medical practitioners and driver self-regulation set in a community context, with family and community involvement. There is insufficient evidence to conclude whether or not this approach is preferable (in terms of road safety outcomes) to more draconian measures. There is limited research into the reliability of medical practitioner judgements, and self-regulation and ultimate voluntary cessation rely on the ability of older drivers to judge when they are unfit to drive, yet there is evidence that older driver judgement of their own safety is subject to both Type 1 and Type 2 errors. At another level, some drivers are able to implicitly perceive or explicitly receive feedback about their driving and adapt their driving accordingly, while others cannot perceive, or refuse to receive, or cannot adapt to feedback. This suggests that the individual-focused approach that is currently undertaken through medical practitioners is inadequate and could be enhanced, while the more broadly focused promotion of self-regulation needs to be constrained. Further, most proposed interventions ignore the possibility of varying the ecology of driving, by changing vehicle characteristics and operation (including in-vehicle technologies), the traffic environment and the road environment to allow older drivers to drive safely for longer. When taken together, an ecological approach to the safety of older drivers and a fine-tuning of individuated assessment and community involvement provide opportunities for addressing the safety of older drivers in the future.

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ID Code: 98135
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: No
Additional Information: A presentation in the "Fitness to Drive" Symposium
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Older drivers, Road safety, Ecological approach, Policy response, Media representation
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified (111799)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION (160500) > Public Policy (160510)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Developmental Psychology and Ageing (170102)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 16 Aug 2016 23:41
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2016 22:21

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