Australian and Canadian researchers are collaborating on a five year longitudinal study following more than 1200 drivers over the age of 75 to determine how their driving changes over time.
The Ozcandrive study is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind, enlisting the assistance of new technologies, which can be used in cars to track the drivers’ behaviour. Associate Professor Judith Charlton, from the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) and leader of the Australian and NZ arms of the study, is developing a screening tool that can help GPs identify at-risk older drivers before they have an accident.
A special issue of the Accident, Analysis and Prevention journal features a number of scientific papers with early findings from the study.
As the baby boomer population ages, there is an urgent need to understand more about the next wave of older road users and how to effectively manage their safe mobility.
MUARC’s Ozcandrive study is a significant program of research addressing the big issues in older driver safety. Using a longitudinal study design and naturalistic driving methods, the project is tracking the health, functional abilities and driving patterns of older drivers for five years.
Participants include 928 drivers aged 70 years and older, recruited in seven cities in four Canadian provinces, and 302 participants aged 75 years and older in Melbourne and Wellington, New Zealand.
Associate Professor Charlton said the Monash researchers are collaborating with a team from Canada.
“The results will help us develop a simple, objective screening tool that will assist health care professionals to identify older drivers who may be unsafe and need further assessment of their driving ability,” Associate Professor Charlton said.
“Study participants will undergo annual assessment of health, cognition, vision and physical capacities and a recording device is installed in their vehicles to monitor driving patterns.
“Each year, drivers also demonstrate their driving ability in an on-road driving task called the Driving Observation Schedule (eDOS), which allows the researchers to objectively study driving behaviour and monitor how this changes over the course of the study. The main difference between this task and a driving test is that it is conducted in the drivers’ own car and in a familiar environment that represents their everyday driving.”
The eDOS focuses on driving manoeuvres known to be problematic for older drivers, including intersection negotiation, lane-changing, merging and monitors both appropriate driving responses as well as errors.
The Ozcandrive study is funded through the Australian Research Council Linkage Scheme and is a partnership between Monash University, Eastern Health, La Trobe University, VicRoads, the Department of Justice, Victoria Police, TAC, Road Safety Trust New Zealand, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and Candrive.
Monash University Accident Research Centre