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World first findings into older drivers announced

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21 July 2015

older driver

World first insights into the driving patterns and behaviours of people aged 75 and over will be revealed by experts in Melbourne today.

Ozcandrive, a 5-year collaborative study, led by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), is the first to evaluate and track drivers as they age, both in clinical environments and out on the road.

The study is the first to combine extensive data detailing every single car journey, with comprehensive health and medical analysis. Over 300 drivers aged 75 and over in Australia and over 900 drivers aged 70 and over in Canada, have taken part in the study, allowing researchers to install a data recording device in their vehicle.

Experts say the study will provide vital information on how older drivers’ change over time, how driving patterns change and how declining health and functional ability can impact on driving.

Ozcandrive Lead Investigator, Associate Professor Jude Charlton from MUARC said the research is of national and international relevance.

“This study is generating a rich volume of data which will provide invaluable insights about older drivers to inform policy for the safe mobility of older people,” Associate Professor Charlton said.

Funded by a $1.8 million Linkage Project Grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC), MUARC has worked in partnership with La Trobe University, VicRoads, the Victorian Government Department of Justice and Victoria Police, the Transport Accident Commission, New Zealand Transport Agency Community Road Safety Fund, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and Eastern Health.

Project Chief Investigator, Dr Sjaan Koppel, MUARC, said the reason it's important to study this generation of older people is because they have had more access to vehicle use than any other generation.

“This generation is extremely active, they drive frequently and are very reliant on their cars,” she said.

“If we’re going to get prepared for the baby boomer population who will be even more active as they age, it’s important that as a society we understand these people and support them,” Dr Koppel said.

The event will also launch the next phase of the project, Ozcandrive II, as a result of funding from the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), and continued support from Eastern Health and the Ozcandrive partners.

Associate Professor Charlton said the study has clearly shown that older drivers take the health and safety of themselves and others very seriously.

“We have found that older drivers are really aware that they are getting older so they change their patterns to accommodate their health and changes in functional abilities. For the first time, the data from participants’ in-car recording device is confirming what drivers tell us: that is, as they age, they are driving relatively less frequently at night and during busy times to keep themselves safe,” she said.

The broad aims of the project are to reduce vehicle-related injuries and death and improve the quality of life of older drivers by extending their safe mobility.

“The study will ultimately lead to safer roads for all through the development of innovative management strategies for older drivers, including a simple, objective screening tool to assist clinicians to identify at-risk older drivers who may be unsafe,” Associate Professor Charlton said.