Older drivers in Australia drive older cars, have increased crash involvement particularly intersection crashes and are more vulnerable to injuries. Autonomous Vehicle Technology (AVT) is available in a range of vehicles including mid-range price vehicles and likely to become standard. While new vehicles, particularly those with AVT safety systems have safety benefits, these benefits are not readily available to older drivers and the usability of AVTs for older drivers is uncertain.

Professor Lisa Keay and colleagues, were recently awarded funding from the Australian Federal Government, Road Safety Innovation Fund of $349,205.

Professor Keay, Head of the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science, led a multidisciplinary team of investigators to conduct a project titled Increasing older drivers’ competency and confidence in the use of advance vehicle technologies (AVT), which was awarded seed funding from the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute in 2019.

Dr Kristy Coxon and Mr Nick Neville, collaborators at Western Sydney University developed an evidence-based advanced vehicle technology program (AVTEDP) to educate older drivers on emerging advanced vehicle safety technologies, which included a classroom education session on AVT safety, and naturalistic driving instruction on AVT use.

The AVTEDP was then evaluated using pre- and post-program surveys to measure the feasibility and acceptability of broad implementation among older drivers, and any changes in participant competency and confidence in AVT use.

The AVTEDP program will now be evaluated in a randomised controlled trial, in 100 older drivers across regional and metropolitan New South Wales. The project will also include a discrete choice experiment, investigating the factors considered when older drivers make decisions about purchasing new cars and how AVTs rank in importance compared to other car features, such as price.

 “It is pleasing to receive this funding to expand on this work” says Lead Investigator, Professor Lisa Keay. “The aim of this project is to help older drivers access the safety benefits of Advanced Vehicle Technologies and contribute to preventing serious road crashes and fatalities that involve older Australians.”

Professor Lisa Keay is joined by A/Professor Julie Brown (The George Institute for Global Health) and Dr Kristy Coxon (Western Sydney University).  A UNSW PhD student is also contributing to this project, (Ms Helen Nguyen, (BMedSci, Hons1), with her thesis tackling the broad research area of ageing, mobility and safety.  Ms Kerrie Ren is the project manager.

Findings of the larger study will be discussed with key stakeholders such as older drivers, policy makers in government road agencies, consumer representatives, motoring associations, and vehicle manufacturers to translate research into practice.

For more information, contact kerrie.ren@unsw.edu.au