Innovative project aims to help older drivers

Simulator to give drivers precious practice time off-road.

Safety boon for older drivers

When to hand over the car keys is one of the tougher decisions faced by older Australians, with the loss of independence keenly felt by most.

But there is help (almost) at hand to give older drivers precious practice at maintaining their skills and staying on the road, safely.

A collaboration between an aged care provider and Deakin University, using a $726,000 grant from the Dementia and Aged Care Service (DACS) Fund, is aiming to give older Australians the opportunity to stay on the road safely, for longer.

This project is the first of its kind in Australia to incorporate 3D modelling, sensors and simulation training technology, Australian Ageing Agenda (AAA) reports. It involved building a virtual reality driving simulator so that older drivers can practise their driving, and address any driving anxieties off-road.

The first simulator will be housed at McLean Care’s aged care facility in Inverell in regional New South Wales.

McLean Care CEO Sue Thomson says the simulator would give older drivers in the community the opportunity to maintain their independence.

“If we take away older people’s drivers’ licences, we’re taking away an element of their independence, and then they become more reliant on other people,” Ms Thomson told Australian Ageing Agenda.

The loss of independence that accompanies the loss of a driver’s licence is one of the causes of older people being admitted prematurely into aged care, she said.

The simulator, currently at Deakin University in Melbourne, will measure drivers’ reaction times and heart rates to assess their physiological responses to certain aspects of driving.

“The drivers will come to roundabouts and have to give way,” Ms Thomson said. “There will be parking near banks and all the large retail outlets of the town. They will also have to physically reverse, stop, put the blinker on and give way.”

Ms Thomson said she saw potential for the project to expand on an international scale and for the technology to benefit both older drivers and anyone with a licence.

Would a driving simulator benefit someone you know? Do you fear the loss of independence involved in handing over the car keys?

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    COMMENTS

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    ray from Bondi
    19th Apr 2018
    11:27am
    Inverell, what do they want it to fail due to lack of response, why so far out in the country, I would have thought that the problems would manifest themselves far worse in the city where decisions have to make instantly.
    WideBayMike
    19th Apr 2018
    3:27pm
    I think the reason it is being tested away from a capital city is because if you live in a regional area or town like I do, and you lose your licence you're stranded. If someone lives in a capital city they can travel by public transport. No public transport here, no taxi's either.

    Another thing is that for those of us that choose to live in a rural area almost all of our driving is done @100 kph on rural roads, they are definitely not highways. That doesn't bother me but I can understand people starting to lose confidence driving on narrow roads when the closing speed is 200 kph and there are only one or two white lines on the road separating you and the guy coming towards you.
    MD
    19th Apr 2018
    3:33pm
    Yeh, fair comment ray from Bondi, maybe it's a trial out there in the sticks to gauge suitability of the program software. You can guarantee
    that the early trial participants will register countless gripes relevant to their failings.
    I'd also say that it's 'instant' the very moment another driver hits the throttle/brake or reverses/forward or negotiates a 'one way' street or stops unneccessarily at a give way sign or has a vague understanding of roundabouts.
    I'm not denigrating senior drivers en masse but suggest it's long overdue for a total reappraisal pertinent to ALL drivers (including full time professionals) from age 70 >.
    A basic Q&A test first and if successful thereafter on road proof of skill set. This should be scaled up as the years encroach.

    Peripheral vision, hearing, eyesight, mobility, flexibility - all begin to effect our driving ability and more-so as we age.

    Most aged drivers are quick to inform they've never had an accident, still got what it takes and far safer on the roads than all these pushy young hoons ... as we're about to find out.
    McGroger
    19th Apr 2018
    7:34pm
    It's being trialled in Inverell because it's an initiative of their local aged care facility - one of the good ones, by the way.

    Here's a link to the story on their website: https://www.mcleancare.org.au/2018-news/our-new-driving-simulator-to-assist-older-drivers
    ronloby
    19th Apr 2018
    2:46pm
    We drive righthand cars in Australia. So why show a yank photo?
    AutumnOz
    19th Apr 2018
    4:53pm
    The spell checker is a Yank so presumably so the the photo service
    Strummer
    20th Apr 2018
    7:00am
    Now all we need is an innovative project to help younger drivers to not be so stupid
    Pass the Ductape
    20th Apr 2018
    9:53am
    I think this should be the FIRST project undertaken Strummer.

    I'm 75 and have no difficulty adhering to the road rules and driving safely in all traffic conditions, but I find the real problem is attempting to compensate for mostly younger drivers who think they're bullet proof and the car they're driving is a magic cocoon which can perform any trick they ask of it - all in a nano second!
    Pass the Ductape
    20th Apr 2018
    10:00am
    I don't have long to go as far as life expectancy goes, but if there is just one thing I'd just love to experience for I depart - and that is to buy a car with a speedometer that records an accurate kilometer per hour reading! Every damn car in my life I've bought so far seems to have speedometer which reads at least 10 or 15 k's per hour less then everybody elses!
    Rocky
    20th Apr 2018
    5:02pm
    You would think they could find a photo that relates to Australia this being a left hand drive car