Losing a driver's license is seen by many as the end of independence and can become one of the factors that triggers social isolation, depression and even the obligation to move to a nursing home.(1) This is why several efforts are being made to delay this moment, while preserving the safety of older drivers and other road users.
Although there are alternative transport solutions, older adults' access to these resources remains a challenge, especially for those living in rural and remote areas who need to drive their vehicles to be able to move around independently and to maintain their social and community activities.
Can training programs for older drivers be effective in maintaining or increasing their safety and performance behind the wheel?
What research tells us
A recent, moderate-quality systematic review identified 33 studies on the subject.(2) These studies examined the effects of different types of interventions on drivers aged 55 and over, most notably on their knowledge of road safety, their perception of road safety and their capabilities, as well as their actual driving performance.
The interventions aimed to increase capacity through:
1. education, by providing information on road safety rules, common driving errors and strategies to avoid these errors, self-regulatory driving strategies, or positioning in a vehicle.
2. physical exercise, offering an exercise program to improve range of motion, strength, dexterity and coordination, core stability and shoulder flexibility.
3. cognitive training, through various activities or computer simulations to promote processing speed, reasoning and visual perception.
Are these interventions effective? Research evidence show that:
- classroom instruction or a combination of classroom instruction with feedback on the road has improved knowledge of road safety;
- tailored training improves knowledge of road safety, modifies self-perception of driving skills and improves driving performance for older drivers;
- discussions between older drivers and health professionals during training increase self-regulating driving practices (and thus help drivers to adjust their driving to different stimuli); and
- approaches involving different professionals promote behaviour change and lead to improved driving skills.
It is not a driver's age that determines their ability to drive
If you are an older driver and have doubts about your driving, find out about:
- how your health status could affect your driving;
- training programs, technologies and conditions (for example, do not drive at night, wear corrective glasses, or drive a vehicle with automatic transmission) that would maintain or increase your safety and your driving performance;
- provincial and territorial laws relating to the conditions for maintaining your driver's license (for example, compulsory medical checks); and
- transportation alternatives that may be available in your community.
And remember, it is not a driver's age that matters, but rather their health.(3) Driving is a complex activity whether you are young or old.