Investigation of self-regulatory behaviours of older drivers

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #208 - 2003

Authors:  Charlton, J., Oxley, J., Fildes, B., Newstead, S., Oxley, P., O'Hare, M. & Koppel, S.

Full report in .pdf format [360KB]


This study surveyed 656 drivers aged 55 years and older and 29 former drivers in Victoria, examining the extent and nature of self-regulation in this group and the characteristics of those who self-regulate and those who do not. Participants were volunteers who responded to recruitment notices in newspapers, seniors' newspapers and an auto club magazine. 

Most drivers (approximately 70%) drove daily and more than two-thirds drove 100 kilometres or more per week. Almost 80% of drivers said they were driving about as much as they would like to. Males and those aged less than 75 years were more likely to drive further and more frequently than females and those aged 75 years and older. Approximately 80% of drivers said their quality of driving was the same as it was 5 years ago. About forty percent reported driving slower and less compared to 5 years ago. Overall, the majority of drivers reported being very confident and that they had no difficulty in the majority of driving situations. Males and younger drivers (aged 55-74) tended to be more confident and had less difficulty than females and drivers aged 75 years and older. The proportion of drivers who reported avoiding driving situations varied across different driving situations. The most commonly avoided situations were driving at night (25%), at night when wet (26%) and in busy traffic (22%). Approximately three-quarters of current drivers said that they had thought about giving up driving one day, however, only 20% said that they had actually made plans for this. The single most important issue that would concern drivers about not being able to drive one day was a loss of independence. 

Regression modelling was conducted to identify key characteristics of those who avoided any of the eight specific driving situations. Those drivers tended to be female, aged 75 years and older, with vision problems, not the principal driver and were involved in a crash in the last 2 years. In addition, those who drove 100 kilometres or less (compared with those who drove more than 100 kilometres) tended to be female, aged 75 years and older, retired, with arthritis, lower ratings of speed of decision making for safe driving, not the principal driver and not married. 

Of those former drivers interviewed, about half had stopped driving in the last year and the majority of others had stopped between 12 months and 2 years previously. They were generally quite mobile and most were satisfied with their ability to get places. Half went out either daily or three to four times per week. However more than a third indicated that they went out only one or two days a week and about one-quarter said they were not satisfied with their current ability to get places. Frequently used transport options included car (as a passenger) or public transport. About one-half reported they often walked and about one-quarter used taxis often. Ill-health, safety concerns and crash involvement were the three most important reasons given for stopping driving. Around one-third of former drivers said they had made the decision to stop driving without the advice or involvement of others. Most said they felt they had stopped driving at about the right time. 

This study has provided a rich source of information about drivers' self-regulatory practices. Based on the findings of this study a number of recommendations were made for future research and for strategies to enhance the awareness of self-regulatory practices and to encourage older people to drive for as long as it is safe for them to do so.

Sponsoring Organisation: Baseline Research Program - Department of Justice, Transport Accident Commission, VicRoads