Self-regulatory driving practices of older drivers in the ACT and NSW

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #254 [2006]

Authors: Judith Charlton, Jennifer Oxley, Jim Scully, Sjaanie Koppel, Melinda Congiu, Carlyn Muir, Brian Fildes

Full report in .pdf format [1.0 MB]


This study examined self-regulatory practices adopted by older drivers in two Australian jurisdictions: the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and New South Wales (NSW). A survey was distributed to a random sample of 6,000 people (3,000 residents of the ACT and 3,000 residents of NSW) aged 60 years and older. Survey responses from 1,697 current drivers (ACT: 1,015 NSW: 682) and 108 former drivers were available for analysis. Approximately two thirds of all current drivers reported that they drove daily or almost daily (ACT: 72%; NSW: 63%) and more than one third drove at least 100 kilometres per week (ACT: 36%; NSW 44%). Males were more likely than females to drive daily and travel greater distances and younger participants (<75 years) were more likely to drive more frequently and further than older participants (75 years and older). One-third of drivers reported that they drove less now than five years ago. Changes in driving distance as well as driving quality and speed were related to overall health status. The majority of drivers reported they were satisfied with their current amount of driving (ACT: 83%; NSW: 81%). Most of the drivers reported being very confident and had no difficulty in driving situations including intersections, busy traffic and other higher risk conditions. Overall, less than one quarter of participants reported that they routinely avoided these situations. The most commonly avoided driving situations were driving at night particularly when wet (15-25%) and driving in busy traffic (approximately 15%). Regression modelling was used to identify key characteristics of self-regulators amongst older drivers. Data for Victorian drivers from an earlier study as well as ACT and NSW drivers were included in these analyses. Those who self-regulated by avoiding any of the selected driving situations were more likely to be Victorian drivers (rather than ACT or NSW drivers), aged 75 years and older, female, have lower ratings of overall health and driving confidence, and live in rural areas. More than half of the drivers (ACT: 64%; NSW: 57%) said that they had thought about giving up driving one day while only 17 percent said that they had actually made plans for this. The majority of former drivers who participated in the study were 75 years and older (64%), female (61%), and lived in an urban area (75%). One third indicated that they went out daily or almost daily, while 28 percent went out only once or twice a week. Two-thirds of all former drivers were satisfied with their ability to go places and most said they stopped driving at about the right time, however, about one-quarter said they were not satisfied with their current ability to get places. Almost all of the participants (99%) indicated that they frequently used a private car as a passenger and just under half indicated that they regularly walked or used public transport to get to places. The three most important reasons for stopping driving were having someone available to drive them, availability of other forms of transportation and concern that their driving responses would not be fast enough in an emergency. A number of recommendations arising from this research are made 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 - NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust