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Distraction and Older Drivers: An Emerging Problem?

This research investigates why older drivers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of distracted driving and reviews recent research on older driver distraction engagement and its impact on their driving performance. It used data collected from the Australian Naturalistic Driving Study (ANDS), involving 346 privately-owned vehicles that were equipped with a data collection system and driven by primary drivers and members of their household for a period of 4 months. Approximately 1.95 million km of driving was collected during the study from 377 participating drivers. The data used for this study was taken from 78 trips that were completed by 48 drivers. These trips were selected because they had been coded as involving secondary task engagement.

The 48 drivers examined were categorized into three groups: 16 aged drivers (60+ years, 68.8% male), 16 middle-aged (43 to 49 years, 43.8% male), and 16 young (22 to 31 years, 31.3% male) drivers. For the purpose of this study, a secondary task was defined as a discretionary task, performed concurrently with driving, but that was not critical to the primary driving task (i.e., adjusting mirrors, windows, seatbelt, and sun visor).

Results indicated that distracted driving was predicted to increase in future generations of older drivers. Further, Australian data showed that older drivers spent 37% of driving time engaged in secondary tasks. The average duration of individual secondary tasks for the younger drivers was 44.5 seconds, 35.9 seconds for middle-aged drivers, and 30.6 seconds for older drivers. Almost half (44.4%) of all the secondary tasks engaged in by older drivers involved adjusting/
monitoring devices integral to the vehicle, such as their seat belt, window and sun visor.

Young, K. L., Charlton, J., Koppel, S., Grzebieta, R., Williamson, A., Woolley, J., & Senserrick, T. (2018). Distraction and older drivers: An emerging problem? Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety, 29: 18-29.

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