Objectives: The objectives of this paper are to review the published research findings about the role of self-regulation in older driver safety and to report on an exploratory study to better understand the self-regulatory practices of older drivers as demonstrated through the avoidance of a number of specific driving situations including making left turns and driving alone, at night, in bad weather, in high traffic, and on the expressway and through restricting driving to familiar or local areas only.
Methods: As part of a larger study on the development and testing of a self-screening instrument by older drivers, data on self-regulation were compared with data on driving-related abilities collected through clinical and on-road assessments for 68 drivers age 65 and older.
Results: Findings indicate that 25% of subjects reported self-regulating their driving in some way. Of those who self-regulated, five individuals reported avoiding just one type of driving situation, six reported avoiding two, one reported avoiding three, and five reported avoiding four types of situations. The most frequently reported situations were avoiding driving at night (19.1%) in bad weather (8.8%), and driving only in local areas (13.2%). Women were considerably more likely than men to report self-regulatory practices. Consistent with the findings of low avoidance of driving situations, subjects generally reported high levels of confidence, with the exception of driving at night, for which over one third of women reported being "not at all confident." Overall, subjects were least confident driving at night, in bad weather, and on express ways. Results from a logistic regression model indicate that subjects did appear to self-regulate their driving at night based on their performance on the on-road driving assessment (p < .01). That is, for every 10-unit decrease in driving score (with lower scores indicating poorer driving performance), subjects were 1.6 times more likely to self-regulate.
Conclusions: Continuing research on the extent to which older drivers appropriately self-regulate their driving is warranted. Future studies should focus on objectively measuring self-regulation, possibly through instrumented vehicle studies, and comparing these measures with clinically determined functional abilities and driving performance. It is also important to take into account differences in self-regulation by sex, as well as the effects of confidence in driving ability and insight into functional impairments on self-regulation.