The crash involvement of any road user is a function of two sets of factors: risk, which covers aspects relating to the individual road user, to his or her vehicle and to the road environment through which he or she is travelling; and exposure, the amount of travel under the di\ufb00erent combinations of risk aspects.
The ever-growing body of research covering older drivers has shown that this road user group has distinct risk factors, relative to young and middle-aged drivers. For example: frailty and hence vulnerability to injury in the event of a crash; for many, a general slow-down in physical, sensory and cognitive functioning; and for some, the onset of speci\ufb01c conditions leading to signi\ufb01cant functional impairments.
Many older drivers, perhaps more so than other road user groups, are aware of their heightened crash risk and have accordingly adjusted their exposure at least in part as a protective measure. In other words, they have attempted to min- imise any travel under conditions that are threatening and/or cause discomfort and conversely, have attempted to restrict their travel to conditions perceived as safe and/or comfortable. This self-regulation of driving has resulted in distinct driv- ing exposure patterns, often re\ufb02ected in crash circumstances.
The national fatal crash data in Australia for the period 1996\u20131999, have been analysed: to identify indicators of older driver risk; to identify indicators of older driver exposure patterns; and to indicate the extent to which and how the risk/ exposure-reduction strategies have proven ine\ufb00ective, by identifying crashes for which older drivers may be deemed responsible. Further countermeasures suggested by these analyses, have been identi\ufb01ed.
Along with increases in the number and proportion of older people in the population, it is also anticipated that there will be an increase in older drivers\u2019 licencing rates (Hakamies-Blomqvist, 1993, 1994). Further, the private car is likely to remain the dominant form of transport for the emerging cohorts of older drivers who, it is predicted, will be undertaking longer and more frequent journeys (OECD, 2001). Demographic growth, increased licencing rates and increased car use (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996) will combine to produce a marked increase in the numbers of older drivers on the road.
involvement in crashes as a consequence. Some principal associations between age-related impairments and driving di\ufb03culties are listed inTable 1. However, current evidence of causal relationships between declines in speci\ufb01c abilities and reduced driving performance or increased crash risk is limited (for reviews, seeCharl-
Whether older drivers, as a group, represent an unacceptably high crash risk, remains a contentious issue. When their crash casualty crash involvement is considered either per licenced driver or per distance travelled, there is invariably evidence that crash rates increase from around the late middle ages onwards (seeFig. 1).
Second, there is the low mileage bias. Independent of age, drivers travelling longer distances will typically demonstrate reduced crash rates per kilometre, compared to those driving lower mileages.Janke (1991) accordingly warned licencing administrators against becoming overly alarmed about older drivers\u2019 apparent high crash risks when based on distance driven, given their shorter driving distances. More recently
had no increased crash risk per distance driven, once di\ufb00erent driving distances were controlled for. \u2018\u2018These \ufb01ndings cast serious doubt on any previous reports of age di\ufb00erences in accident risk per distance driven\u2019\u2019 (Hakamies-Blomqvist et al., p. 274).
Many older drivers are aware of some functional decline and accordingly adjust their driving patterns to avoid travel under conditions which are perceived to be threatening or which otherwise cause discomfort (Eberhard, 1996; Evans, 1988; McGwin & Brown, 1999; Preusser, Williams, Ferguson, Ulmer, & Weinstein,
At least some of these changes, however, are counterproductive from the viewpoint of crash reduction. Older drivers\u2019 uncertainty about high-speed travel has led to greater travel on low-speed roads and minimal travel on freeways (OECD, 2001), a road type with a relatively safe record because of the limited numbers of con\ufb02ict points.
Killed and injured drivers per 10 000 population
Killed and injured drivers per 10 000 licensed drivers
Killed and injured drivers per 100 million miles driven
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