Older Women and Driving: A Survey

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #226 [2004]

Authors: Oxley, J., Charlton, J., Fildes, B., Koppel, S. & Scully, J.

Full report in .pdf format [520KB]


Older female drivers are over-represented in serious injury crashes compared to older men and younger women, and this will most likely increase in the years ahead. There are issues that are specific to the safe mobility of older female drivers including driver experience, confidence, exposure, trauma consequences, and mobility consequences of premature driving cessation. The aim of this study was to investigate the safety and transportation issues of older women drivers in the ACT, specifically to identify age and gender effects on crash rates and crash types in the ACT, conduct a survey of older female drivers and former drivers to identify the issues of concern to older women and to develop the contents of an educational resource addressing the issues and problems for older women drivers in the ACT.

The findings from the crash data analyses revealed that, while older car occupants are at relatively lower risk of crash involvement and injury risk than younger car occupants, crash rates adjusted for population and licence distribution show high rates of fatalities for older male drivers and high rates of serious injury crashes for older female drivers.

The survey of older female drivers in the ACT revealed a number of associations between driver characteristics and crash involvement, driving distance and continued years of driving. Older women with poorer health status, who were the principal driver but lacked up-to-date driving experience, who reported being less confident and less positive about driving, and who reported problems driving were more likely to have been involved in a crash than younger, healthier women who did less of the driving and were confident and positive about driving. In addition, older women with health problems, who experienced problems with driving situations, did not enjoy driving and had been involved in a crash were least likely to have expectations of longer-term continuation of driving. While current drivers expressed negative feelings about driving cessation, former drivers were generally more positive about their decision and stopped driving because of availability of another driver, discomfort, lack of confidence and loss of enjoyment in driving. Approximately one-third of the sample felt they stopped driving too early and the presence of another driver affected this decision.

This research has provided information for the development of road safety initiatives targeting the specific issues for older female driver groups, particularly educational resources presenting information on maintaining safe mobility. Recommendations for such a resource include: ways to reduce crash risk such as recognising the signs of reduced driving ability and adapting driving to capabilities, maintenance of up-to-date driving experience, and gaining confidence in driving; ways to successfully reduce and stop driving at the right time; and ways to maintain mobility after driving cessation including exploration of different lifestyle choices and alternative transport options. The findings also highlighted the need for further research to i) examine the role of functional ability in crash risk amongst older female drivers in more depth, ii) strengthen the current findings by comparing the experiences of older female drivers in other jurisdictions, comparing the experiences of older male drivers, and expanding the sample of former drivers to investigate fully the mobility consequences of stopping driving.

It is expected that this research will play a major role in improving the driving experiences, safety and mobility of older female drivers not only for the current generation of older road users, but also future cohorts of older female drivers.

Sponsoring organisation - NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust