New screening tool aims to promote older driver safety


While driving independence remains cherished among many older Australians, age-related changes can affect driving abilities, raising concerns about road safety.

Professor Kaarin Anstey, an expert in ageing research, highlights that ageing brings about various changes, including in vision, hearing, mobility and cognitive functions like memory and processing speed. These changes can impact driving abilities, making safety a top concern for older drivers.

To address this, Professor Anstey and her team developed the Multi-D test, a brief off-road assessment tool designed to evaluate multiple abilities crucial for safe driving. Unlike other tests, Multi-D assesses complex reaction time, balance, and motion detection, providing a comprehensive evaluation tailored to older drivers.

Their study, funded by NHMRC, validated Multi-D and seven other tests against the on-road driving test, ensuring its reliability in identifying drivers at risk. Over 560 participants aged 63 to 94 underwent both off-road and on-road tests, demonstrating the effectiveness of off-road screening in identifying potential safety concerns.

Professor Anstey emphasises the importance of accurate identification of unsafe drivers to prevent accidents and injuries. She is now focused on commercialising Multi-D and conducting a randomised control trial to assess the impact of different educational interventions on older driver safety.

“There is a whole group of people who we feel would benefit from an intervention to improve their safety to enable them to keep driving. They’re not going to fail a driving test, but we know we can make them safer on the road through an intervention.”

“Consumers want to be responsible and do some driving training, but it has to be evidence-based,” Professor Anstey said.

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