Ozcandrive, a 5-year collaborative study, led by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), is the first to evaluate and track drivers as they age, both in clinical environments and out on the road.
Lead Investigator, Associate Professor Jude Charlton from MUARC says the study has clearly shown that older drivers take the health and safety of themselves and others very seriously.
“We have found that older drivers are really aware that they are getting older so they change their patterns to accommodate their health and changes in functional abilities. For the first time, the data from participants’ in-car recording device is confirming what drivers tell us: that as they age, they are driving relatively less frequently at night and during busy times to keep themselves safe,” she says.
The study is the first to combine extensive data detailing every single car journey, with comprehensive health and medical analysis. Over 300 drivers aged 75 and over in Australia and over 900 drivers aged 70 and over in Canada, have taken part in the study, allowing researchers to install a data recording device in their vehicle.
Experts say the research is of national and international relevance. The study will provide vital information on how older drivers’ change over time, how driving patterns change and how declining health and functional ability can impact on driving.
“This study is generating a rich volume of data which will provide invaluable insights about older drivers to inform policy for the safe mobility of older people,” Associate Professor Charlton says.
Project Chief Investigator, Dr Sjaan Koppel, MUARC, says the reason it's important to study this generation of older people is because they have had more access to vehicle use than any other generation.
“This generation is extremely active, they drive frequently and are very reliant on their cars,” she says.
“If we’re going to get prepared for the baby boomer population who will be even more active as they age, it’s important that as a society we understand these people and support them,” Dr Koppel says.
The broad aims of the project are to reduce vehicle-related injuries and death and improve the quality of life of older drivers by extending their safe mobility.
“The study will ultimately lead to safer roads for all through the development of innovative management strategies for older drivers, including a simple, objective screening tool to assist clinicians to identify at-risk older drivers who may be unsafe,” Associate Professor Charlton says.