Most senior drivers think they are better behind the wheel than they actually rate, says a new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
None rate themselves ‘poor’
The University asked each of the 350 senior motorists polled in the study– aged 65 to 91 — to evaluate their own driving skills over the previous five years. Although 25 percent admitted to being involved in one or more accidents during that period, a full 85 percent said they were either “good” or “excellent” drivers. None of the participants rated themselves as “poor” behind the wheel. Less than one percent rated their skills as only “fair.”
The study concluded that most elderly drivers have an inflated view of their own skills, and generally did not take into consideration previous records of accidents or citations.
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Self-reporting is inaccurate
Lesley Ross, an assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Psychology and author of the report, concluded:
“A large debate in driving research is whether or not at-risk drivers can self-regulate, and thus possibly reduce their crash risk. This research indicates that, at least for this sample, a previous history of four adverse driving outcomes has no relationship with self-reported driving ability, thus possibly indicating a lack of awareness in regards to driving abilities.”
Ross went on to say that, while most elderly people drive safely, some are at a “greater risk for crashing” due to an inflated impression of their skills.
Eye-testing not enough
Ross suggested that elderly motorists should have regular performance tests, rather than just the customary eye-test, to stay on the road. Until that time, it is up to friends and families to be honest to elderly loved-ones when driving skills begin to slip.
“Until that [further mandated testing] happens, we found that receiving a suggestion to stop or limit driving had the greatest impact on seniors self-rated driving abilities. Clearly, there needs to be more open discussion among older adults, their family and friends, as well as physicians.”
A growing demographic
Meanwhile, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the member of senior citizens on the road is on the rise. According to the federal safety regulator, there were 32.3 million motorists aged 65 or over on the road at any given time in 2008. By 2020, that number is expected to have risen to more than 40 million.