Challenging situations, self-reported driving habits and capacity among older drivers (70+) in Sweden: a questionnaire study

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The aim of the survey study in Sweden was to investigate health issues, driving habits and use of a car. The researchers were also interested in which traffic situations were judged as difficult or dangerous, avoidance strategies adopted for such situations, type of car used, equipment (ADAS systems) and its frequency of use. Respondents were asked to report any accidents in the previous two years, and to self-estimate their cognitive functioning and driving ability. Target population: Persons born in 1941 or earlier (aged 70 years or more in the year 2011), living in the county of Västra Götaland in Sweden, holder of a driving licence for category B, passenger car and still driving. This resulted in a target group comprising 1,362 active drivers. The overall picture of an older driver emerging from this study is one who enjoys car driving, uses the car often and is not particularly occupied by thoughts about stopping driving. Possible bias in this picture of older drivers may be due to the fact that those most interested in car driving were also those most interested in the study and thus in answering the questionnaire. There are several “truths” about older drivers reported in the literature that are questionable in the light of the present study. It is sometimes said that older people drive old cars, but this phenomenon is not supported by the questionnaire data in our study. The changes in driving behaviour often attributed to ageing drivers, e.g. driving more slowly, less frequently and over shorter distances, are applicable in the case of about one-third of the drivers in the present study. Analyses of this study confirm that health status is not the only reason someone stops driving; being less confident/apprehensive in the context of car driving may result in driving cessation. Findings indicate that preventive action, such as retraining sessions or developing driver assistance systems, will have to be taken into account if the risk associated with certain situations is to be reduced.

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