Education and training are important ways to inform older drivers of the physical and cognitive changes experienced as part of the ageing process, on the implications of ceasing to drive and on the choice of safer vehicles. In addition, other people with a particular interest in the safety and mobility of older people, such as doctors, family, vehicle manufacturers, highway engineers, but also other drivers who share the road with older drivers should be informed of the difficulties experienced by older drivers in traffic.
- Informing the older driver
- Training the older driver
Informing the older driver
Older drivers need information on the physical and cognitive changes that accompany ageing, and on the implications of ceasing to drive. In particular, it is important to inform older drivers of:
- The potential for declining sensory and cognitive abilities, difficulties that may arise in traffic as a result of these declining abilities, and how to modify driving strategies to avoid these difficulties. Recognition by the individual driver is the essential first step in effective remedial action. At the same time, information must be available to provide reassurance that with care and planning, drivers can continue to drive safely well into old age.
- Vehicle equipment and ADAS which are available to make driving easier.
- Increased vulnerability, and the importance of using protection devices.
- Influence of age-related illnesses and prescribed medication on driving abilities.
- Information about the procedure to be followed to extend the driving licence.
- Possible decision to no longer drive a car: making this debatable, and discussing the roles that relatives and family doctor can play
- How and where to seek and access mobility alternatives to the car.
The above information can be disseminated in special meetings organised by traffic safety organisations or by senior citizens' leagues, or it can be published in leaflets to be distributed in buildings frequented by older people. One specific occasion for distributing leaflets would be the medical examination that is required in many European countries to renew the driving licence. Examples of leaflets are:
- Drive on! Advice for older drivers, a leaflet by the Department for Transport of the UK.
- Mobility for all ages, a brochure by the Belgian Institute for Road Safety.
- Driving for all ages, a brochure by the Finnish National Transport Authority.
Training the older driver
Training programmes provide a good opportunity for informing the older driver of the physical and cognitive changes that accompany ageing, difficulties that may arise in traffic as a result of these changes, and how to modify driving strategies to avoid these difficulties. In addition, attention can be paid to difficult traffic situations in the neighbourhood and new traffic rules. The programme can be supplemented with a practical training module or assessment drive. Examples of training programmes are the German programme called 'Altere aktive Kraftfahrer' and the BROEM-drives that are organised in the Netherlands.
Examples of training programmes
The German programme 'Altere aktive Kraftfahrer' consists of four successive seminars that are run in the style of a workshop. Participants are encouraged to examine their own behaviour and driving habits behind the wheel, by discussion and the sharing of experiences. The courses offer older drivers the opportunity of keeping up to date with the latest driving regulations and of resolving individual problems which may have arisen from their own driving experiences.
The Dutch BROEM is a voluntary assessment drive for drivers over 50 years of age; it is not a driving test. The BROEM drive includes assessment of driving style, eyesight and response times, and provides a refresher course on traffic rules. The drive is supplemented by a reference book which includes information on the effects of age on driving and gives helpful advice to older drivers. After the drive, the participant is given a report indicating his strengths and weaknesses, with suggestions for improvement.