During the Autumn of 1990, a three year study was initiated to collect information concerning the characteristics and driving patterns of drivers over 70 years old. In particular, older drivers' awareness of normal age-related changes and their possible effect on driving were to be considered. The long-term aim of the study was to determine the type of information or practical assistance which would benefit drivers as they grow older. The study was in three stages: (a) a home-based survey of 499 driving licence holders, which elicited information on driving status and, for current drivers, information relating to health, car use and compensatory driving techniques, (b) an in-depth study of a subsample of 48 drivers, including an observation drive, vision and reaction time tests, and (c) a study of a subgroup of 20 ex-drivers, primarily to ascertain reasons for giving up driving, the impact of this on lifestyle and the alternative means of transport used. The main finding from this survey is that many drivers over seventy years old are aware of age-related changes and adjust their driving accordingly. Compensatory techniques used include avoidance of long journeys, town centres, busy junctions, motorways and driving in the dark. No marked differences were found between drivers in their seventies, but there was a tendency for drivers over eighty years old to be less aware of their difficulties. However, it is clear that there are individual differences in the rate at which processes decline with age and in standards of driving competence. It is therefore concluded that age alone is unlikely to be an accurate determinant of fitness to drive. The recommendations from this survey focus on the positive steps which can be taken to encourage drivers, as they become older, to monitor their driving competence. In addition, it is recommended that continued consideration be given to changes in the road environment and the development of technological aids for driving which would ease the driving task for all drivers. Finally, it is emphasised that information and the opportunity to discuss the difficulties associated with driving and giving up driving should be available for older drivers. (A) For related work see IRRD 856259.

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