Older Drivers Study
The number of older drivers on the roads is increasing and the number of female older drivers is set to increase faster than males. Older drivers, as a group, are suffering from age-related functional deteriorations and a higher fatality rate than the average driver. They tend to self-regulate their driving practices by avoiding driving at night and in risky situations and places and driving less, more slowly and more cautiously than other age groups. Maintaining the car-based mobility of older people is important to meet social inclusion, general well-being and economic objectives. Very often there is no alternative to the car for older people with functional decline, especially in rural locations, whilst due to economic conditions people will be expected to work longer, up to and beyond the age of 70. Thus, retaining their car-based mobility can have significant societal benefits including economic, health, and well-being.
This study investigates the potential of in-vehicle technologies on keeping older drivers driving safely for longer in four stages: Stage 1 . A survey with older drivers using focus groups. It explored what journeys older driver made in their cars, how their driving experience had changed during their lifetime, any deterioration they had suffered due to ageing and whether they had used or would be interested in any in-vehicle technologies.
Stage 2. A telephone-based interview with policy makers and experts in the filed of driving and road safety. This stage saught opinions from both public and private sectors on the potential benefits of keeping older drivers driving safely for longer. It also looked into existing regulations and policies towards older drivers and views on current intelligent transport systems infrastructures associated with older drivers. The following government departments and organisations participated in the interview: Department for Transport (DfT), Highways Agency (HA), Mobility Centre, the Automobile Association (the AA) and the Association of Chief Policy Officers (ACPO). The findings of Stages 1 and 2 are summarised in the 2nd SiDE Trasport paper entitled ‘The benefit of keeping older people driving”.
Stage 3. Driver stress is found to be associated with personality, emotion, fatigue proneness, lapses, errors, violation and confidence. A field trial with older drivers was carried out to understand the changes in older drivers’ stress level under various traffic conditions, road layout and when performing different driving tasks. A wearable biosensor technology, BioHarness, which measures heart rate, breathing rate and skin temperature was adopted as the monitoring tool. Participants were asked to wear the BioHarness around their chest and drive the vehicle on a pre-defined route which was about 10 miles and took 25 minutes to complete. For safety reasons, each participant was given up to one hour to practice on the test track at Nissan Sunderland Plant before driving the vehicle on to the public roads. One video camera was fixed on the dashboard facing the outside of the vehicle to capture the front scenes along the route. A satellite navigation system was pre-programmed and only switched on if the driver preferred. Two researchers were in the car with the participant, one in the passenger seat and one in the back seat. The researchers were there to observe the driver’s driving performance but not to judge or examine them. A software called DIADEM is used for the data analysis and visualisation.
Stage 4. The test of in-vehicle technologies with older drivers will be conducted using a driving simulator.
The following technologies are to be tested:
• Junction Assistance
• Night Vision
• Lane Departure Warning
• Lane Change Assistance
• Obstacle and Collision Warning
• Intelligent Speed Adaptation
• Electronic Brake Assistance
Further reading: Guo W, Brake JF, Edwards S, Blythe PT, Fairchild RG. The application of in-vehicle systems for elderly drivers. European Transport Research Review 2010,2 3 165-174