Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

Evaluation of a Re-Training Program for Older Drivers

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

Evaluation of a Re-Training Program for Older Drivers

Article excerpt


Background: Some older drivers may have a higher crash risk than others. Because many of these drivers have not received formal driving training, we evaluated the effectiveness of a re-training program for older drivers as it is currently being offered. Specifically, we examined if older drivers who received the training would have better scores on a driving evaluation than drivers who did not receive the training.

Methods: We used a randomized controlled trial. Participants first took part in on-road driving evaluations (possible scores ranged from 0 to 100), after which they were block randomized into training (treatment) or waiting (control) groups based on the driving evaluation results, age, and sex. Individuals in the treatment group attended driver re-training sessions, and were tested once more with the on-road test. Those in the control group completed their second driving evaluation and were then offered the re-training sessions. The second evaluations took place approximately two months after the first evaluations.

Results: Sixty-five participants completed two driving evaluations. Despite the overall improvement in driving scores (3.73, SD = 6.87, p = 0.001), we found no statistically significant difference between the control and treatment groups. The mean improvement for the control group was 3.46 (SD=6.72) compared to 4.02 (SD=7.11) for the treatment group (p = 0.747). Drivers' age was related to overall driving scores (r = -0.55, p = 0.001) but not changes between the first and second evaluations (r = 0.01, p = 0.955).

Interpretation: Although we have not demonstrated a statistically significant impact of the intervention, the overall increase suggests that an initial driving evaluation may underestimate the actual driving ability of many older drivers. Furthermore, although older drivers may have lower driving scores initially, they have the ability to improve on these scores. These findings should encourage us to explore diverse approaches to improve driving safety.

The proportion of older adults licensed to drive and the distance they drive is increasing.1 These changes, combined with older adults' elevated susceptibility to the traumatic effects of crashes,23 place an increasing number of older adults at risk of serious traffic-related injuries. In 1975, adults aged 65 and over represented 10% of all fatally injured vehicle occupants, in 1998 this proportion reached 18%, and if the current trend continues, this proportion will be 27% by 2015.4

Preventive strategies to address the specific needs of older drivers are crucial. While young drivers are typically implicated in single-vehicle crashes involving alcohol and/or aggressive driving,5-8 older drivers are typically implicated in multivehicle crashes, especially at intersections.5·7'9 Problematic maneuvers for older drivers include turning, merging into traffic, changing lanes, leaving a parking position, and backing.5,7,10

Although reduced driving abilities and health-related impairments are often behind older drivers' difficulties, an issue seldom examined is that few older drivers received formal driver training. One intervention developed to fill this void is the 55Alive program of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The 55Alive program was adapted for Canadian drivers by the Canadian Safety Council. However, it is unclear if the 55Alive program achieves its objectives, specifically 1) to promote safe driving habits in older drivers, and 2) ultimately to reduce crashes involving older drivers. We designed this study to examine the first objective. We hypothesized that older drivers would obtain higher driving scores, based on standardized on-road evaluations, after taking the 55Alive program.



Participants (living in a city of 120,000 in Ontario) were recruited from several sources: radio/television interviews conducted with the principal investigator, articles and ads in newspapers, and posters distributed to hospitals and seniors' centres. …

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