Project details

Full project title: Prolonged safe driving through technology

Sponsor: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Principal investigator: Dr Charles Musselwhite

Principal researcher: Hebba Haddad

Start date: July 2006

Finish date: October 2007

Research briefing sheet: Download the briefing sheet document (PDF)

Project summary

This research project was sponsored by a grant from the Strategic Promotion of Ageing Research Capacity (SPARC) initiative.

The project was commended by a panel of older people, charities and advocates as being a model project for involving older people in research. It worked closely with older drivers, allowing them to thoroughly participate in the research process, to develop an understanding of older people's transport needs - particularly in relation to driving - and how these may be addressed through the use of technology.

The project consisted of three phases. In phase one, 26 participants who were regular drivers took part in two waves of focus groups, completion of a background details questionnaire, a telephone interview and completion of a driver diary. This was complemented in phase two by 31 interviews with ex-drivers who had given up driving within the last year.

This study has provided valuable evidence about the central and critical role that driving plays in the lives of older people; it also highlights the negative impact arising from giving up driving, especially on men. This has helped to build an understanding of older people's travel needs, and their attitudes to advanced driving technologies. This understanding is assisted by a model which identifies three main travel needs: practical, social and aesthetic. Significantly, the model will help policy makers to understand the potential importance of meeting the social and aesthetic travel needs of older people. These needs can be, and often are, overlooked.

Phase three involved an electronic Delphi process to discuss how technology might help meet older drivers' needs. The discussion group was comprised of international experts from a variety of fields including older people themselves, charities supporting older people, academics and technologists. The discussion highlighted the fact that older people tended to want technology that would enhance feedback, whilst 'professionals' advocated technology that took over part of the driving task.

After phase three discussion, the specific technologies which were identified for further investigation included:

  • a system of auditory feedback on the current vehicle speed
  • intelligent speed adaptation
  • a system to display road signs (either on the dashboard and/or through head-up display).

Further research is now planned to continue investigation into the role of technology in meeting travel and driving needs.

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