Older drivers are overconfident

While Newcastle University in the UK is developing systems to help keep older drivers on the road, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is canning older drivers.

QUT has conducted a study into the driving ability versus driving confidence of 98 men and women between 65 and 85 years of age. The study showed that people were not as good at driving as they thought they were, and the older a driver was, the more confident but less able they were.

They were not, however, actually tested on their driving. The participants’ ability was instead marked using a hazard perception test. This is a computerised driving simulator, where the participant has to see and react to hazards on the road, such as pedestrians and braking vehicles.

I took a hazard perception test myself a few years ago, and it was one of the most difficult tests I’ve ever done. Not because the test was hard, but because the technology was so poor. The graphics were pixelated, which made seeing anything very difficult, and the computer was so slow that by the time the computer had registered my request to start braking, I had already run over four people.

Now, it’s possible the hazard perception test the participants in this study took was different, or of a better quality, than the standard test given in Victoria. But even if the test was of the highest quality, statistically speaking the older the person taking the test, the less likely they are to be familiar with computers. This in itself is likely to skew the results.

The study concluded that the older a driver is, the less able they are to self-assess whether or not they should be driving. Why is it that in Australia we are asking our older drivers to play a computer game, and then condemning them, whereas in the UK they are using technology to work towards keeping older drivers on the road? Is it sheer laziness on our part? Or are we just less forward-thinking?

More information
To find out how the UK’s ‘DriveLAB’ is keeping older drivers on the road, read the YOURLifeChoices news article Too old to drive.

How should we regulate older drivers in Australia?
Older drivers should decide when to stop driving
There should be an arbitrary cut-off age
Older drivers should sit a yearly driving test

Have your say
What do you think? Can we trust older drivers to decide when to hand in their licences? Or should there be an arbitrary cut-off age for drivers? And should we be doing more as a country to keep our older drivers independent and mobile?