Older Australians make up just eight per cent of licensed drivers, but account for over 14 per cent of road fatalities.
The reason for this over representation of older drivers is the focus of a new study, which is investigating the link between road fatalities and comfort accessories regularly used by older drivers.
In a recent review of 380 drivers aged 75 years or older, it was found that while all drivers wore seatbelts, over 25 per cent also used an adaptive comfort accessory such as seat belt padding, seat base cushions, or back support.
Dr Julie Brown, the senior research scientist at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), is investigating the link and believes many of these accessories could be influencing the disproportionate number of older Australians killed and injured in car crashes.
“Previous research into child safety in cars has shown such accessories have a detrimental effect on protection provided by a restraint in a crash,” said Dr Brown.
“No guidelines exist anywhere in the world which detail acceptable designs of comfort and orthopaedic aids to be used in a car.”
There has been no previous research undertaken to find out if these aids are being prescribed by clinicians, and what evidence exists to support the use of adaptive comfort aids in Australia’s aged driver population.
“This study will examine the impact these aids have on crash protection and use the evidence to generate guidelines,” said Dr Brown.
The aged driver research program will resolve these unknown modifications and deliver guidelines for comfort and orthopaedic aids used by older passengers and drivers.
The results from the study will then be made available for immediate use by occupational therapists, physiotherapists and clinicians to ensure Australia’s ageing population maintains mobility without increased risk of injury in a crash.
What do you think? Do you use any comfort aids in your car while driving? Have you had an accident while driving with these comfort aids?